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2 Kings 11:1-21
REVOLUTION IN JUDAH, FOLLOWING THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS IN ISRAEL. REIGN OF ATHALIAH OVER JUDAH. CONSPIRACY OF JEHOIADA, AND DEATH OF ATHALIAH.
2 Kings 11:1-3
On learning the death of Ahaziah (2 Kings 9:27), Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, the queen-mother, murders all her grandchildren (except the youngest, Joash, who is secreted by his aunt, Jehosheba) and seizes the kingdom. No resistance is made to her, and she retains the sole authority for six years. The worship of Baal, introduced by Jehoram into Judah, and supported by Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:27), is maintained by her (2 Kings 11:18).
2 Kings 11:1
And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead. (On Athaliah, see the comment upon 2 Kings 8:18.) She was married to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, probably in the lifetime of his father, to cement the alliance concluded between Ahab and Jehoshaphat against the Syrians (1 Kings 22:2-4). She inherited much of her mother Jezebel's character, obtained an unlimited ascendancy over her husband, Jehoram, and kept her son Ahaziah in leading-strings. It was unquestionably through her influence that Jehoram was prevailed upon to introduce the Baal-worship into Judah (2Ki 8:18; 2 Chronicles 2:5, 2 Chronicles 2:11), and Ahaziah prevailed upon to maintain it (2 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 22:3, "He also Talked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly"). On the death of Ahaziah, she found her position seriously imperiled. The crown would have passed naturally to one of her grandchildren, the eldest of the sons of Ahaziah. She would have lost her position of gebirah, or queen mother, which would have passed to the widow of Ahaziah, the mother of the new sovereign. If she did not at once lose all influence, at any rate a counter-influence to hers would have been established; and this might well have been that of the high priest, who was closely connected by marriage with the royal family. Under these circumstances, she took the bold resolution described in the next clause. She arose and destroyed the seed royal. She issued her orders, and had all the members of the house of David on whom she could lay her hands put to death. The royal house had already been greatly depleted by Jehoram's murder of his brothers (2 Chronicles 21:4), by Arab marauders (2 Chronicles 21:17), and by Jehu's murder of the "brethren of Ahaziah" (2 Kings 10:14); but it is clear that Ahaziah had left several sons behind him, and some of his "brethren" had also, in all probability, left issue. There may also have been many other descendants of David in Judah, belonging to other branches of the house than that of Rehoboam. Athaliah, no doubt, endeavored to make a clean sweep, and get rid of them all.
2 Kings 11:2
But Jehosheba ("Jehoshabeath," Chronicles; "Josabethe," Josephus). The daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah—half-sister, according to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 2 Kings 9:7. § 1), the daughter of Joram by a secondary wife, not by Athaliah—took Jonah the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons which were slain. As aunt of the royal children, Jehosheba would have free entrance into the palace, and liberty to visit all the apartments. She did not dare openly to oppose Athallah's will, but contrived secretly to save one of the intended victims, the smallest of them, an infant of a year old (παμδίον ἐνιαύσιον, Josephus). His tender age, probably, moved her compassion, and induced her to select him from the rest. And they hid him: even him and his nurse. The order in the Hebrew is, "even him and his nurse, and they hid him," which clears the sense. Jehosheba stole away Joash and his nurse, and they, i.e. Jehosheba and the nurse together, hid him between them. In the bedchamber; rather, in the chamber of mattresses—a room in the palace where mattresses, and perhaps coverlets, were stored. Chardin notes that there is usually retch a room m an Oriental palace, which is only used as a store-chamber, and not as a dwelling-room. From Athaliah, so that he was not slain. Athaliah's servants may not have been very anxious to carry out her cruel orders to the uttermost, and may have made no very careful search.
2 Kings 11:3
And he was with her—he, i.e. Joash, was with her, i.e. Jehosheba, his aunt—hid in the house of the Lord; i.e. the temple. We learn from Chronicles (2 Chronicles 22:11) that Jehosheba was married to Jehoiada, the high priest, and would thus have ready access to the temple. We must suppose that, after a few days' concealment in the "chamber of mattresses," Jehosheba found an opportunity of transferring him, with his nurse, to a chamber in the temple, where he was thenceforward nourished and brought up. There were various chambers in the temple used for secular purposes, as we learn from 1 Kings 6:5-8 and Nehemiah 13:5-9. Six years (comp. Nehemiah 13:21 and 2 Chronicles 24:1). And Athaliah did reign over the land. It is difficult to realize all that this implies. It cannot mean less than that for six years Baalism was triumphant in Judah—the temple was allowed to fall into decay (2 Kings 12:5)—a temple to Baal was erected in Jerusalem itself, to supersede the temple of Jehovah (2 Kings 11:18), and a high priest appointed to be a rival to the successor of Aaron. Whether persecution was indulged in, as under Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:11), is uncertain; but the servants of Jehovah were at any rate under a cloud, slighted, contemned, held as of small account. Perhaps we may conclude, from the position occupied by Jehoiada, and from the powers which he was able to exercise when he determined on revolt (Neh 13:4; 2 Chronicles 23:1, 2 Chronicles 23:2), that Athaliah, during her six years' reign, was to some extent held in check by a Jehovistic party, which she knew to exist, and which she did not dare openly to defy. Thus she left Jehoiada (apparently) in possession of the temple, of its treasures and its armory (Nehemiah 13:10); she allowed the temple service to continue (2 Chronicles 23:4-7); she permitted the priests and the Levites to serve in their regular "courses" (2 Chronicles 23:8); she let the fortress of the eastern city—for the temple was always a fortress—remain in her enemies' hands. Still, the time was evidently one "of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy" the oppressed worshippers of Jehovah were greatly discontented; and the nation generally was ripe for a counter-revolution, so soon as the signal was given by an authority whom they could trust.
2 Kings 11:4-16
Conspiracy of Jehoiada. After waiting, impatiently we may be sure, for six long years, and seeing the young prince grow from an infant to a boy of seven years of age, Jehoiada deemed that the time was come to venture on an effort. It was necessary for him to make his arrangements beforehand with great care. His first step was to sound the captains of the royal guard. To these men, five in number (2 Chronicles 23:1), he sent secretly, and in-wired them to confer with him in the temple on important business. Finding them well disposed to adopt his views, he revealed to them the fact that Joash had escaped the massacre of Ahaziah's sons, and was still living, even allowing them to see him. The result of the interview was that they put themselves at Jehoiada's disposal, and agreed to take their orders from him (2 Kings 11:4). Jehoiada then proceeded to his second step. Either distrusting the body-guard which the captains commanded, or regarding it as insufficient in numbers, he gave them orders to visit the various cities of Judea, and collect from them a strong force of Levites and other trusty persons, and bring them to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 23:2), where he would give them their orders. This was done successfully, and, as it would seem, without in any way rousing the suspicions of Athaliah. A day was fixed for proclaiming Joash king; the guard and the Levites were skillfully disposed about the temple and the palace; the king was brought up, crowned, anointed, and saluted as monarch, with noisy acclamations (2 Kings 11:12). The noise was heard in the palace, and Athaliah went forth, with a few attendants, to inquire the reason of it. Following the sound, she came to the temple, and entered it, when she saw what was going on, and cried out, "Treason! Treason!" By Jehoiada's order the guards seized her, conducted her out of the temple, and slew her (2 Kings 11:13-16).
2 Kings 11:4
And the seventh year—literally, and in the seventh year; i.e. in the course of it—Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard; rather, the captains over hundreds (or, centurions) of the Carites and the guard (see the Revised Version). The "Carites," here first named, are generally regarded as identical with the Cherethites of earlier times (2 Samuel 8:18; 1 Kings 1:38; 1 Chronicles 18:17). They were undoubtedly a particular portion of the royal guard, and may, perhaps, as many suppose, have been "Caftan" mercenaries, though we have no other evidence that the Carians had adopted the mercenary life so early as the time of Athaliah. Still, as their devotion to it had passed into a proverb when Archilochus wrote, it is quite possible that they had begun the practice a century or two earlier. When Jehoiada is said to have "sent and fetched" the centurions, we must understand that he secretly invited them, and that they consented to come. He could not possibly have any authority over them, so as to require their attendance. The names of the five centurions, together with their fathers' names, were put on record by the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:1), whose account of the revolution is in many respects fuller than that in Kings. And brought them to him into the house of the Lord—as the safest place for an interview which had to be kept secret from the queen—and made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of the Lord. We can easily understand that the soldiers, who had been willing to serve Athaliah under the notion that the house of David was extinct, might waver in their allegiance so soon as they heard that a scion of the old royal stock survived, and could be produced at a moment's notice. Their traditions would attach them to David and his seed, not to the house of Ahab. And showed them the king's son. Having bound the centurions by a solemn covenant to the cause of the young king, Jehoiada introduced them into his presence. He had, no doubt, previously sworn them to secrecy.
2 Kings 11:5
And he commanded them, saying, This is the thing that ye shall do. It is evident, from 2 Chronicles and from Josephus, that a considerable interval of time separates the events of verse 5 from those of verse 4. The immediate arrangement made between Jehoiada and the centurions was that they should "go throughout the whole land" (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 9.7. § 2), visit "all the cities of Judah" (2 Chronicles 23:2), and gather out of them a strong force of Levites and priests (Josephus), together with a certain number of other representative Israelites, which force they should bring with them to Jerusalem, and place at his disposal. To accomplish this must have taken some weeks. When the force had arrived, Jehoiada summoned it to meet him in the courts of the temple, and swore it to a similar covenant to that which he had made with the centurions. He then bided his time, completed his arrangements, utilized the store of arms laid up in the temple armory (verse 10), and finally gave two charges—one to the centurions, which is given here (verses 5-8), and the other to the force collected from the cities of Judah, which is given in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:4-7). The orders given to the two forces were very similar, but not identical. A third part of you that enter in on the sabbath. The royal body-guard consisted of five divisions, each probably of a hundred men, and each commanded by its own captain (2 Chronicles 23:1). It was usual on the sabbath for three divisions out of the five to mount guard at the royal palace, while two were engaged outside, keeping order in the city, and especially at the temple. We do not know the ordinary disposition of the guard, either inside or outside the palace. On this occasion Jehoiada commanded that the palace-guard should be disposed as follows: one division at the palace proper, in the courts and halls and antechambers; a second at one of the issues from the palace, known as "the gate of Sur;" and a third at an issue called "the gate of the guard," which was certainly towards the east, where the palace fronted the temple. The object was to secure the palace, but not to prevent the queen from leaving it. Shall even be keepers of the watch of the king's house; i.e. of the royal palace.
2 Kings 11:6
And a third part shall be at the gate of Sur. The "gate of Sur" is not elsewhere mentioned. It seems to be called in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:5) "the gate of the foundation" (שַׂעַר יְסוֹד) instead of "the gate of Sur" (שַׁעַר סוּר), as here—the one reading having evidently arisen out of the other by a corruption. We must understand one of the palace gates, but which of them is uncertain. And a third part at the gate behind the guard; called in 2 Kings 11:19 "the gate of the guard," and shown there to have been on the cast side of the palace, where it faced the temple, and abutted on the Tyropoeon. So shall ye keep the watch of the house—i.e; of the "king's house," or palace, which is contrasted with the "house of the Lord" of the next verse—that it be not broken down. This rendering is scarcely accepted at the present time by any writers. Ewald renders, "according to custom;" Keil, "for defense;" Furst, "alternately;" our Revisers, "and be a barrier." The Hebrew word used occurs nowhere else, and it seems impossible to determine its sense. The LXX. simply omit it.
2 Kings 11:7
And two parts of all you that go forth on the sabbath. Three-fifths of the guard having been disposed of about the palace, there remained only two-fifths, or two "companies" (margin of Authorized Version). These Jehoiada commanded to enter the temple and protect the young king. Even they shall keep the watch of the house of the Lord about the king. According to Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:7), the great body of the Levites gathered from the cities of Judah was also to be in the temple, and to assist in the protection of the monarch.
2 Kings 11:8
And ye shall compass the king round about; every man with his weapons in his hand. The guard was to take up a position, partly in front of the king, and partly behind him; interposing themselves between his person and any danger, and at the same time extending themselves across the entire court of the temple (2 Kings 11:11) from one wall to the other. They were, of course, to have their weapons in their hands, ready for use. And he that cometh within the ranges, let him be slain; rather, within the ranks. The order was that if any one entered the temple, and attempted to break through the ranks of the guard, either in front of the king or behind him, he should instantly be put to death. No attempt of the kind was made; and so the order re-rosined a dead letter. And be ye with the king as he goeth out and as he cometh in; accompany him, i.e. in all his movements—let him never for a moment stray outside your ranks—continue to surround him whithersoever he goes. Boys are restless, and curiosity would lead the young prince to move from place to place in order to see what was going on.
2 Kings 11:9
And the captains over the hundreds—i.e; the five centurions of the guard, Azariah the son of Jeroham, Azariah the son of Obed, Ishmael, Maaseiah, and Eli-shaphat—did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest commanded. The secular arm placed itself entirely at the disposal of the spirituality, and was content for once to be subordinate. 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. The position of Jehoiada as high priest ("the priest" always means "high priest") had not been previously mentioned, probably because it was presumed to be known. The Chronicler, writing much later, gives Jehoiada the title on the first occasion that he mentions him (2 Chronicles 22:11). When it is said that "all the captains took their men and came to Jehoiada," the intention is to mark their exact obedience to the orders given them. Strictly speaking, only two out of the five actually appeared before Jehoiada on the day of the execution of his project, two divisions only having been summoned to come to the temple (verse 7). The other three took up the positions assigned them in and about the royal palace.
2 Kings 11:10
And to the captains over hundreds did the priest give King David's spears and shields, that were in the temple of the Lord. We hear of David carrying with him to Jerusalem the "shields of gold," i.e. shields ornamented with gold, which he took from the servants of Hadadezer (2 Samuel 8:7); but otherwise we are not told of his establishing an armory. Solomon made six hundred shields of solid gold, and laid them up in the house of the forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 10:17); but these were carried off by Sheshonk, when he invaded Judaea in the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:26). Rehoboam, in their place, made three hundred brazen shields (1 Kings 14:27), which, however, were deposited in the guard-chamber of the royal palace. Of spears collected by David, and laid up in the temple, we know nothing beyond the present passage. There can be little doubt that the weapons were brought forth from their receptacle with the view (as Ewald says) of "consecrating the work of the restoration of the Davidic house with the sacred arms of the great founder himself"—not, however, with arms that he had worn, but with some which he had collected and laid up.
2 Kings 11:11
And 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. "Corner" is a wrong word used in this connection. The Hebrew כָתֶף is literally, "shoulder," and must mean here, not "corner," but "side" (so our Revisers). The guard was drawn up right across the temple court from wall to wall, probably in several ranks, both before and behind the king (see 2 Kings 11:8). Along by the altar. The "altar" intended is, of course, the altar of burnt offering, which stood in the great court, a little way from the porch, right in front of it; not the altar of incense, which was inside the sanctuary. No one, it must be remembered, was ever allowed to enter inside the sanctuary but the priests and officiating Levites (see 2 Chronicles 23:6). And the temple. "The temple" is here the sanctuary, as in the passage of Chronicles just quoted. The guard occupied a position at the upper end of the court, immediately in front of the altar and the temple porch.
2 Kings 11:12
And he—i.e. Jehoiada—brought forth the king's son—produced him, i.e; from the chamber or chambers where he had been concealed hitherto. (On the temple chambers, see Nehemiah 13:4-9.) And put the crown upon him. That the Israelite kings actually wore crowns appears from 2 Samuel 1:10 and 1 Chronicles 20:2. The crown was probably a band of gold, either plain or set with jewels (Zechariah 9:16), fastened behind with a riband. It receives here the same name that is given to the high priest's diadem in Exodus 29:6 and Exodus 39:30. And gave him the testimony. The words "gave him" are not in the original, and are superfluous. What is meant plainly is that the high priest laid on the young king's head a copy of the Law, or of some essential portion of it, perhaps the Decalogue, which is often called "the testimony" (Exodus 16:34; Exodus 25:16, Exodus 25:21, etc.). The object apparently was to show that the king was to rule by law, not arbitrarily—that he was to be, as Dean Stanley says, "not above, but beneath, the law of his country". The ceremony seems to have been a new one, and is indicative of the gradual curtailment of the regal power under the later monarchy. And they made him king, and anointed him. A change is made from the singular to the plural, because, as we learn from 2 Chronicles 23:11, "Jehoiada and his sons anointed him." We have had no mention of the anointing of a new monarch in Judah since the time of Solomon (1 Kings 1:39). It may, however, have been the usual practice. And they—i.e. the people—all who were present—clapped their hands—an ordinary sign of joy (see Psalms 47:1; Psalms 98:8; Isaiah 4:1-12; Nahum 3:19, etc.)—and said, God save the king! literally, long live the king!.
2 Kings 11:13
And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people. The "and," which is omitted in the present Hebrew text, may be supplied by a very slight alteration. We have only to read הָרָצִי וְהָעָם for הָרָצין הָעָם—an emendation rendered almost certain by the fact that the plural in ־יּן does not belong to the date of the writer of Kings. She came to the people into the temple of the Lord. It was not her habit to enter the temple on the sabbath, or on any ether day; but, hearing the noise, she hurried across from the palace to learn its cause. It would seem that she was still unsuspicious of danger, and brought no guards with her, nor any large body of attendants.
2 Kings 11:14
And when she looked, behold, the king stood by a pillar; rather, on the pillar, or on the raised platform. The king's proper place in the temple seems to have been a raised standing-place (הָעַמּוּד, from עָמֹד, to stand) in front of the entrance to the sanctuary, which made him very conspicuous. As the manner was—i.e. as was the usual practice when kings visited the temple—and the princes—i.e. the centurions or captains of the guard—and the trumpeters by the king—the officials whose business it was to blow the trumpet at a coronation (see 2Sa 15:10; 1 Kings 1:39; 1 Kings 9:13)—and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets; i.e. the people who had been admitted into the great court to witness the coronation. Some rumor of what was about to occur had got abroad, and many of the people had provided themselves with trumpets. As Dean Stanley puts it, "The temple court was crowded with spectators, and they too took part in the celebration, and themselves prolonged the trumpet-blast, blended with the musical instruments of the temple service." And Athaliah rent her clothes. Athaliah took in all with a single glance. She "saw that the fatal hour was come" (Stanley). With a strong hand she rent her royal robes, partly in horror, partly in despair; for the single glance which she had cast around was sufficient to show her that all was lost. And cried, Treason! Treason! or, conspiracy! conspiracy! The cry was scarcely an appeal for help, as Josephus makes it ('Ant. Jud.,' 9.7. § 3), but rather an instinctive utterance, without distinct aim or object, wrung from her under the circumstances. It fell dead on the assembly.
2 Kings 11:15
But Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains—literally, princes—of the hundreds, the officers of the host—the commanders, i.e; of the small "army" assembled in the temple court—and said unto them, Have her forth without the ranges; rather, have her forth, or conduct her out between your ranks. The object was probably to preserve her from suffering violence at the hands of any of the people within the temple precincts, which Jehoiada desired to preserve free from pollution. And him that followeth her kill with the sword; i.e. if any come after her out of the temple, to attempt a rescue, slay them with the sword. The order, given aloud, was sufficient to deter persons from making the attempt. For the priest had said, Let her not be slain in the house of the Lord. Jehoiada had previously given an order that her execution should take place outside the temple.
2 Kings 11:16
And they laid hands on her. So the LXX. (ἐπέθηκαν αὐτῇ χεῖρας), the Vulgate, Luther, and others; but most moderns understand that they formed in two lines, one on either side of her, and so let her pass out of the temple and proceed towards the palace untouched—the divinity that hedged a queen preventing them from molesting her until the time came for her execution (see the Revised Version). And she went by the way by the which the horses came into the king's house. Josephus makes Athaliah pass out of the temple by the east gate, and descend into the Kedron valley. He says she was put to death "at the gate of the king's mules," but does not mark the locality. The gate intended can scarcely be the "horse gate" of Nehemiah 3:28, which was in the eastern wall, and north of the temple. It was probably a gate on the western side of the Tyropoeon valley, giving entrance to the stables of the palace. And there was she slain; "with the sword" (Nehemiah 3:20). A single blow from one of the guardsmen probably sufficed.
2 Kings 11:17-21
Further doings of Jehoiada. The king being at present a mere puppet in his hands, Jehoiada had to determine the next steps which were necessary to be taken. These, in his judgment, were three.
1. A solemn covenant must be made between the king and the people; and another between the king, the people, and God—the latter pledging the king and people to maintain the worship of Jehovah, and never again to apostatize; the former pledging the king to govern according to law, and the people to remain faithful to him.
2. The temple of Baal, erected in Jerusalem at the instance of Athaliah, must be destroyed.
3. The king must be removed from the temple and installed in the palace of his ancestors. A brief account of these proceedings concludes the present chapter.
2 Kings 11:17
And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people. In the original it is "made the covenant;" and the meaning is that the high priest renewed the old covenant understood to exist between king and people on the one hand and God on the other, that they would be faithful to God and God to them—that they would maintain his worship, and that he would continue his protection (see Exodus 19:5-8; Exodus 24:3-8; Exodus 34:10-28). The apostasy of Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah was regarded as having put an end to the old covenant, and therefore it was solemnly remade or renewed. That they should be the Lord's people (comp. Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 9:29; Deuteronomy 32:9, etc.); between the king also and the people. The terms of this covenant are nowhere distinctly stated, but we can only suppose them to have expressed in words the intention of that novel act, the imposition of "the testimony" upon the head of the king at the time of his coronation (see the comment upon 2 Kings 11:12).
2 Kings 11:18
And all the people of the land—i.e. all those who had come up to Jerusalem from the various cities of Judah to help Jehoiada (see 2 Chronicles 23:2)—went into the house of Baal. According to Josephus, "the house of Baal" hero mentioned was built by Jehoram and Athaliah in the reign of the former ('Ant. Jud.,' 9.7. § 4), But, if this was the case, it is rather strange that the writer of Chronicles, who enumerates so many of the evil acts of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:4, 2 Chronicles 21:6, 2 Chronicles 21:11), does not mention it. The present narrative shows that the temple was in, or very near, Jerusalem; but there is nothing to fix the site of it. And brake it down—Josephus says they "razed it to the ground" (κατέσκαψαν)—his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly. It was common among the heathen to have several altars in one temple, and not uncommon to have several images even of the same god, especially if he was a god worshipped under different forms, as Baal was (whence the word "Baalim"). The Baalim of this temple are mentioned by the writer of Chronicles (see 2 Chronicles 24:7). And slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. The name "Mattan" recalls that of the last King of Judah, which was originally Mattaniah, equivalent to "gift of Jehovah" (2 Kings 24:17). Mattan would be simply "gift." We may presume that, though only called "priest," he was the high priest. And the priest—i.e. Jehoiada—appointed officers over the house of the Lord. The parallel passage of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:18, 2 Chronicles 23:19) explains this statement. We are there told that "Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the Lord by the hand of the priests the Levites … to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the Law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was ordained by David. And he set the porters at the gates of the house of the Lord, that none which was unclean in anything should enter in." During Athaliah's reign the temple service had ceased; breaches had been broken in the outer walls; and neither the priests nor the porters had served in their regular order; there had been no morning or evening sacrifice, and no antiphonal psalm-singing. Jehoiada re-established the regular courses and the worship.
2 Kings 11:19
And he took the rulers—literally, princes—over hundreds—i.e. the five centurions of 2 Chronicles 23:2—and the captains—rather, and the Carites (see the comment on 2 Chronicles 23:4)—and the guard—i.e. the "runners," the other division of the guard—and all the people of the land—those who had flocked to his standard either originally (2 Chronicles 23:2) or since—and they brought down the king from the house of the Lord. They escorted Joash from the temple to the palace, first bringing him down into the valley of the Tyropoeon, and then conducting him up the opposite, or western hill, on which the palace stood. And came by the way of the gate of the guard to the king's house. The "gate of the guard" is probably that called in 2 Chronicles 23:6 "the gate behind the guard." We may presume that it was the main entrance to the palace on the eastern side. And he sat on the throne of the kings. Not till he had placed Joash on the royal throne of his ancestors, in the great throne-room of the palace, was Jehoiada content with the work of the day.
2 Kings 11:20
And all the people of the land rejoiced. "All the people of the land" has here, perhaps, a wider signification than in 2 Kings 11:18 and 2 Kings 11:19. The whole land was content with the revolution that had taken place. No opposition showed itself. Ewald has no ground for his statement that the heathenizing party was strong in Jerusalem, and that the worshippers of Jehovah "had for a long time to keep watch in the temple, to prevent surprise by the heathenizing party". He has mistaken the intention of the last clause of 2 Kings 11:18. If anything is clear from the entire narrative of the early reign of Joash (2 Kings 11:3-21; 2Ki 12:1-16; 2 Chronicles 23:1-21; 2 Chronicles 24:1-14), it is that there was no heathenizing party in Jerusalem, or none that dared to show itself, until after the death of the high priest Jehoiada, which was later than the twenty-third year of Joash. And the city—i.e. Jerusalem—was in quiet: and they slew—it might he translated, when they had slain—Athaliah with the sword beside the king's house. The intention of the writer is to connect the period of tranquility with the removal of Athaliah, and therefore to point her out as the cause of disturbance previously.
2 Kings 11:21
Seven years old was Jehoash—or, Joash—when he began to reign. The clause would be better placed at the beginning of the next chapter.
2 Kings 11:1-3 and 2 Kings 11:14-16
Athaliah and Jezebel, the wicked daughter and the wicked mother.
It has often been noted that, while women are, as a general rule, better than men, in the cases where they enter upon evil courses their wickedness exceeds that of their male associates. The character of Lady Macbeth is true to nature. Wicked women are more thorough-going than wicked men, more bloody, more daring, more unscrupulous. In Athatiah we have a sort of repetition of Jezebel—a second picture on the same lines—the picture of a fierce, ambitious, utterly unscrupulous woman, occupying much the same station as her mother, equally powerful, equally unsparing, and equally remorseless. Both women are represented as—
I. DEVOTEES OF THE SAME SENSUOUS AND IMMORAL CULT. Jezebel introduces the Baal and Ashtoreth worship into Israel; Athaliah into Judah. Each defiles the capital of her adopted country with a temple to Baal—a temple where images of Baal are set up, altars erected to him, and sacrifices offered to him. Each brings with her into her new home the Baal priesthood, and installs it in power.
II. OPEN ANTAGONISTS OF JEHOVAH. Jezebel persecutes the Jehovistic prophets, slaying as many as she can, and threatening the life even of Elijah (1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 19:2). Athaliah stops the temple-worship at Jerusalem, has breaches made in the temple walls, and gives to Baal the offerings which properly belong to Jehovah (2 Chronicles 24:7).
III. MURDERESSES. Jezebel, of Naboth (1 Kings 21:8-14) and of the Jehovistic prophets (1 Kings 18:4); Athaliah, of "all the seed royal of the house of Judah" (2 Chronicles 22:10).
IV. EAGER TO GRASP AND WIELD SOVEREIGN POWER. Jezebel governs Ahab (1 Kings 21:25), uses his signet (1 Kings 21:8), orders executions (1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 21:10), and the like. Athaliah governs Jehoram (2 Kings 8:18) and Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 22:3), and then seizes the royal power, and actually rules Judaea (2 Kings 11:3). Athaliah is, on the whole, the bolder of the two, and the more unscrupulous; since to destroy the entire seed royal, including several of her own grandchildren, was a more atrocious and unnatural deed than any committed by Jezebel; and the actual assumption of the royal name and power, in spite of her sex, was a more audacious proceeding than any on which her mother ventured. But her audacity verged on rashness, which cannot be said of Jezebel She brought her fate upon herself; Jezebel succumbed to an inevitable stroke of adverse fortune. There was weakness in Athaliah's half-measures after she became queen, in her suffering Jehoiada to retain so much liberty and so much power, and still greater weakness in her unsuspiciousness. We cannot imagine Jezebel, if she had ever been actual queen, allowing herself to be put down in the way that Athaliah was. She would at least have made a fight for her life, instead of walking straight into a trap, which was what Athaliah did. Quem Deus vult perdere prius dementat is an old saying. Athaliah's folly at the last can only be accounted for by an infatuation, which may have been a Divine judgment on her.
2 Kings 11:4-19
Jehoiada an example of a faithful and wise high priest under trying circumstances. The history of the Jewish kingdom from the time of Saul to the Captivity furnishes but few examples of remarkable high priests. Zadok and Abiathar were personages of some importance in the time of David, and left behind them a name for zeal and fidelity; but otherwise no man of eminence had arisen among the high priests until Jehoiada. This may be partly accounted for by the fact that the high priesthood was hereditary, not elective; but still more by the nature of the office, which was not such as to bring its holder into historical prominence in quiet times. Jehoiada's opportunity for distinction arose from the difficult circumstances in which he was placed. Holding the office of high priest when the throne was usurped and religion outraged by Athaliah, it devolved on him to rescue Church and state alike from peril, and to counter-work the wicked schemes of an enemy alike bold and unscrupulous. He could not prevent the destruction of the royal stock by Athaliah, which was a crime so unnatural that none could have anticipated it; but he did what he could. At the peril of his life he saved one prince, concealed him from prying eyes, protected him, bred him up secretly, and did not allow his existence to be even suspected. In faith and patience he waited till the infant had become a boy of an age to interest people, and till Athaliah had lest the affections of all classes of her subjects. He then organized a counter-revolution to the one effected by Athaliah, with the greatest prudence, caution, and sagacity. It would have been easy to gather partisans and raise a revolt; but Jehoiada shrank from the horrors of a civil war, and from the risk of losing his precious charge by a stray shot or a chance sword-thrust. He therefore set to work to detach Athaliah's supporters from her cause by the peaceful method of persuasion. First he gained over the captains of her guard, then through them the rank-and-file, finally the "chief fathers" of Israel in the various cities (2 Chronicles 23:2). Doubting the sufficiency of this force, he farther summoned to his aid a large body of Levites. And all this he did so secretly as to create no alarm, to arouse no suspicion. When the time for action came, he made his arrangements with the most consummate skill. He could not, indeed, have foreseen that Athaliah would so play into his hand, as she did, by coming within the temple walls with few or no attendants; but he had taken his measures in such a way as to make failure impossible, and to reduce to a minimum the probability of tumult or armed resistance. It was an indication of extraordinary prudence and political wisdom to be able to effect a complete revolution, both in Church and state, at the cost of two lives, both of them clearly forfeit by the Law of Moses. Up to this time, Jehoiada's wisdom had been chiefly conspicuous. Henceforth it is his fidelity that draws our admiration. Aiming at nothing for himself, his first thought is for the honor of God, and therefore he renews the Mosaic covenant; his next for the welfare of his country, and therefore he makes king and people mutually swear to each other; has third for the honor of true religion, and therefore he destroys the temple of Baal, and inaugurates afresh the Jehovistic service. As Bahr says, "If ever a man stood pure and blameless in the midst of such a bold, difficult, and far-reaching enterprise, then Jehoiada, the ideal Israelitish priest, did so here." The after-life of Jehoiada is less remarkable (2 Kings 12:2-16; 2 Chronicles 24:2-14), but not unworthy of his earlier reputation.
2 Kings 11:15-17
God's judgments not infrequently fall in this life, though sometimes they are deferred to the life beyond the grave.
The Athaliahs and Mattans of history seldom come to a good end. Though the wicked man be often seen in prosperity, though he "flourishes as a green bay tree," yet it is not often that he continues flourishing to the close of his days, or dies in comfort, peace, and happiness. The psalmist was satisfied when he saw "the end' of the man whose long-continued prosperity had vexed and grieved him (Psalms 73:2-22). Heathen wisdom bade men "never to pronounce any one happy before his death," since in human life changes were of continual occurrence, and the higher a man's exaltation above his fellows at a given time, the lower was likely to be his depression and degradation at another. The rationale of the matter seems to be—
I. GOD HAS ATTACHED PENALTIES TO VICE IN THE WAY OF NATURAL CONSEQUENCE, WHICH TAKE EFFECT IF TIME BE ALLOWED. Tyrants lay up for themselves a constantly increasing amount of hatred and resentment, which naturally bursts forth and sweeps them away after a while; e.g. Hipparchus, Tarquin, Dionysius, Caligula, Nero. Drunkards, gluttons, and profligate persons destroy their health. Reckless spendthrifts reduce themselves to poverty and want. Unfaithfulness strips men of their friends, and leaves them weak and defenseless against their adversaries. The prosperity of the wicked is naturally but for a time—give them the full term of human life, and, before they die, their sin will, to a certainty, find them out, and they will cease to prosper.
II. GOD DOES, ON OCCASION, VISIT HIGH-PLACED, PROSPEROUS SINNERS WITH SUDDEN, SIGNAL PUNISHMENTS DEALT BY HIS OWN HAND. Scripture gives us a certain number of examples, as those of the Pharaoh of the Exodus, Saul, Jezebel, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod Agrippa, and the like, whose afflictions are distinctly declared to have been sent upon them by God himself in the way of punishment. While, no doubt, great caution is necessary in applying the principle thus indicated to other persons in history, and especially to living persons, we need not shrink from some application of it. God speaks to us in history, not only in his Word. When selfish usurpers, who have deluged whole continents in blood, and sacrificed tens or hundreds of thousands of lives to gratify their ambition, are cast down from their thrones, and die in exile or banishment, it is almost impossible not to see his hand in the occurrences, executing judgment. When an Arius, bent on the disruption of the Church, and seemingly at the point of triumph, expires silently in the night, or a Galerius, the most cruel of persecutors, perishes in most horrible agonies, there is no want of charity or of reverence in once more recognizing his finger interposed to save has Church or to avenge his martyred ones. "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment" (1 Timothy 5:24); and, when the judgment falls, it would be willful blindness on our part not to recognize it. We must be cautious, and remember that those on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, were not sinners above the other dwellers in Jerusalem (Luke 13:4); but, if it was God's vengeance that destroyed the cities of the plain, and that visited Nadab and Abihu, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Sihon and Og, Balaam, Adonizedek and his brother kings, Eglon, Sisera, Zebah, Zalmunna, Abimelech, Agag, Doeg, Shimei, Jezebel, Haman, Ananias, Sapphira, Herod Agrippa, Elymas, so we may be sure that it has fallen on hundreds of others whose names do not occur in Scripture, coming suddenly upon them, and cutting them off in their iniquities, generally when neither they nor others were in the least expecting it. God is still, as he has ever been, "the great, the mighty God, the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in work; his eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men, to give every one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings" (Jeremiah 32:18, Jeremiah 32:19). Either m this life or in the life to come he will execute vengeance upon evil-doers. Well for them if it is in this life, and if they so escape the dreadful lot of those "to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (Jud 2 Kings 1:13).
HOMILIES BY C.H. IRWIN
2 Kings 11:1-16
The preservation and coronation of Joash.
This is a touching story of hymen wickedness and of God's overruling and preserving power. Three principal personages come before us here, from each of whom something may be learned.
I. ATHALIAH AND HER WORK. Athaliah's life-work was a Work of destruction. She did much harm. She did no good. A daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (sometimes called a daughter of Omri, whose granddaughter she was), she had inherited all the evil propensities of her parents. She destroyed her own husband, Jehoram King of Judah. We read of him that "he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 21:6). She destroyed also her son Ahaziah. We read of him that "he also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. Wherefore he did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab; for they were his counselors after the death of his father to his destruction" (2 Chronicles 21:3, 2 Chronicles 21:4). And now she completes her destructive career by putting to death her grandchildren, the seed royal of the kingdom. There are many women like Athaliah, whose life-work is a work of destruction. What harm one wicked woman can do! Some corrupt the morals of others. Some, by their evil-speaking and slander, do what they can to destroy the reputation and good name of their neighbors. The Jezebels and Athaliahs of Scripture story have their parallels in the Queen Marys, the Pompadours, the Medicis, and the Maintenons of more modern times.
II. JEHOSHEBA AND HER WORK. Jehosheba's work was a work of preservation. She too was a king's daughter. But she had not been corrupted by the wickedness of the court. She was the wife of Jehoiada the priest—a good wife of a good man. She rescued Joash from Athaliah's massacre, and kept him hid in the priests' apartments in the temple. There he was hid for six years, until the time that, as a boy-king, he was called to the throne. If there are Athaliahs in the world still, there are also Jehoshebas. If there are women of cruelty, there are also women of sympathetic and. compassionate spirit. If there are women who are corrupters of others, how many there are who by their own pure life and conduct have been the preservers of public purity and morality! If one wicked woman can do much harm, one pure-minded Christian woman can do a vast amount of good. What an amount of quiet beneficence is being carried on by Christian women throughout the world at the present day! What a vast number of ladies who visit and minister to the poor! What a vast number of ladies who, in hospitals and in private houses, devote themselves to the noble work of nursing the sick I How many are engaged in instructing the young in our Sunday schools! How many have gone forth as missionaries to heathen lands! Woman's work in the Christian Church, and in the cause of charity and philanthropy, seems to be increasing every year.
III. JEHOIADA AND HIS WORK. Jehoiada's work was of a twofold nature. His work was both destroying and preserving. He destroyed idolatry. He put an end to Athaliah's reign and life. He did not believe in the policy of non-resistance. He believed in doing his utmost to overthrow even the power of the reigning queen, when that power was wickedly obtained, and exercised in an evil way, dishonoring to God and injurious to the interests of the nation. Like many another reformer, he incurred the charge of disloyalty and treason. But there are many things that need to be destroyed. And who can overestimate the harm done by a wicked ruler? But Jehoiada was no mere revolutionist. He did not rebel against Athaliah for revolution's sake. He did not put an end to her reign because of his antipathy to governments. He would have agreed with St. Paul that "the powers that be are ordained of God." He set up another king in her place, and, in place of the idolatry which she had sanctioned, he set up the worship of the true God. We see in the whole narrative the overruling providence of God. Athaliah thought she would make her power secure by her holocaust of young princes. But man proposes, and God disposes. We see also the use of human instrumentality. God works by means. He used Jehosheba to preserve the young life which in the end was the means, in Jehoiada's hand, of overthrowing the wicked power of Athaliah.—C.H.I.
2 Kings 11:17-21
The covenant and its results.
Jehoiada was faithful to God. All that he had hitherto done was but the work of a pioneer, preparing the way for the restoration of God's worship and God's Law in the land. We have here—
I. THE COVENANT MADE. Very early in the history of God's people we find them entering into covenants with him. When Jacob had that comforting vision at Bethel, he entered into a covenant. "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go … so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God; and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." The pillar he set up was the witness of the covenant. When God gave the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, they entered into a covenant that they would keep them and do them. That covenant they publicly renewed and ratified many times in their subsequent history. They renewed it shortly before the death of Moses. They renewed it shortly before the death of Joshua, and on that occasion Joshua set up a great stone to be a witness of what they had done. On the occasion before us they renew it under the influence of Jehoiada. "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." They renewed it also in the reign of Josiah, and under Ezra and Nehemiah after the return from the Captivity. In all these cases we find three important features, common to them all. In each case the duty of making the covenant was enjoined upon the people by eminent men of God—prophets, priests, and kings. In each case it was a public covenant, entered into by all the people. And in each case, when the covenant was renewed, it was accompanied by moral and spiritual revival and reformation. Have we not in the New Testament the same duty pointed out and practiced, though not indeed under the same name? It was a public covenant with the Lord when on the Day of Pentecost the three thousand souls were baptized. When Paul praises the Churches of Macedonia for that "they first gave their own selves to the Lord;" when he calls his readers to present themselves a living sacrifice unto God; to remember that they are not their own, but are bought with a price; to come out from among the godless and be separate;—all these are just different ways of reminding them that as Christians they have entered into a covenant with God. Passing over the dark ages which came upon the Christian Church, we find that when the Bible truths began to shed their light once more in the surrounding darkness, the early Reformers found it necessary to baud themselves together in a solemn covenant with God and with one another. By this means they kept before them their great purpose. By this means they stimulated and strengthened and encouraged one another. By this means they lifted up a testimony against surrounding error. Such a covenant was publicly agreed to by the Protestant princes and states of Germany, and also by the Huguenots of France. But the best-known and most memorable covenants are those of Scotland. John Knox laid the foundation of the Reformation in Scotland, but the covenants built it up and strengthened it. The first of these was called the National Covenant, first drawn up in the year 1580. It was signed by the king, nobles, and persons of all ranks—the king being James VI. of Scotland, afterwards James I. of England. By this memorable document the whole people of Scotland pledged themselves to renounce and resist all the errors of popery, and to maintain the truth as it is in Jesus. It was this covenant which was afterwards renewed in the Greyfriar's Churchyard at Edinburgh, when, among the immense multitude who signed it, many opened their veins and wrote their names with their own blood. The other was the Solemn League and Covenant, entered into between the two parliaments of England and Scotland, also for resistance to popery, and the maintenance of pure religion throughout the land. These things suggest to us that, in times of prevailing wickedness or of prevailing error, it is the duty of God's people to make public avowal of their faith in Christ and allegiance to him. It is a duty pointed out both in the Old Testament and in the New, and confirmed by the experience of God's Church both in Scripture times and in more recent days. If ever there was a time when it was the duty of Christ's people publicly and unitedly to confess him, that time is the present. Wickedness abounds. The love of many waxes cold. Many of Christ's professing people seem utterly indifferent to the claims of their Master and his cause. False doctrines are taught; and under the show of religion there is a growing conformity to the world. A faithful, strong, united testimony for Christ is urgently needed. How, then, are we to carry out this duty of making a public covenant with God? There is one way which is available to us all, and that is the Lord's Supper. It is an act of commemoration, communion, and consecration. In partaking of the Lord's Supper we enter into a covenant with God. It is a public covenant. The eyes of the world are upon us. They see us make a profession to be Christ's. Do they see that our practice corresponds with our profession? Each communion ought to be a personal covenant with God on the part of each individual believer. It ought to be a public covenant with God on the part of families. It ought to be a public covenant with God on the part of congregations.
II. THE COVENANT KEPT. Jehoiada and the people had entered into a covenant or engagement that they would be the Lord's. And they kept their promise. The first way in which they showed it was by breaking in pieces the idols and their altars, which were so abundant in the land. So, if we take Christ's vows upon us at his table, let us show that we mean what we profess. Let us show that we are on the Lord's side. "Better not to vow, than to vow and not pay." Let us begin with our own hearts. Are there no idols there that need to be thrown down, no besetting sins that need to be put away, no evil passions that need to be crucified? "If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only" (1 Samuel 7:3).
III. THE BLESSINGS OF THE COVENANT. "And all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet." God kept them in perfect peace, because their minds were stayed on him. They kept their part of the covenant. God kept his. We find in Scripture that God promises special blessings to those who enter into a covenant with him. Before he gave the Law on Mount Sinai, he said to the children of Israel, "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine." Then again God says, "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord God Almighty." We also find that more than once these promises were fulfilled. In the days of Asa, when the people of Judah made a covenant with God, we read that "it was a time of great rejoicing, for they had sought the Lord with all their heart, and he was found of them; and the Lord gave them rest round about." So in the days of Josiah, When they made the covenant and put away the strange gods, we read, "Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah." It was the same in more recent times. The covenanters, whose motto was "For Christ's crown and covenant," and who shed their blood in defense of Christ's authority, were a great means of preserving pure and undefiled religion in Scotland. Let us all, then, faithfully witness for him by our lives. "Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten' (Jeremiah 1:5).—C.H.I.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
2 Kings 11:1-21
The history of Athaliah.
"And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead," etc. Among the blackest names in the long roll of the world's infamy are those of kings and queens, and amongst them Athaliah is not the least abhorrent and revolting. She was the daughter of Ahab King of Israel, and of Jezebel, his notorious wife. She married Joram (or Jehoram) King of Judah. She was the mother of Ahaziah, and advised him in his wickedness. After Jehu had slain him, she resolved to put an end to all the children of her husband by his former wives, and then mount the throne of Judah herself. But the half-sister of Ahaziah, Jehosheba, secured Joash, one of the children and heir to the throne, and secreted him with his nurse for six long years. In the seventh year the young prince was brought forth and placed on the throne. Crowds of people assembled to witness the ceremony, and Athaliah, hearing the shouts of the crowd, hastened to the temple, utterly unsuspicious even of the existence of the young king. When, however, she caught a sight of the young king and heard the hurrahs of the crowd, she felt that her atrocious plans had been frustrated, and in her savage humiliation rent her clothes and cried, "Treason! Treason!" But her hour was over; she was too late to rally a party in favor of her own interest, and by the command of the priest she was instantly removed and violently destroyed. In this woman's life, as here sketched, we have hereditary depravity, outwitted wickedness, and just retribution.
I. HEREDITARY DEPRAVITY. We find in this woman, Athaliah, the infernal tendencies of her father and her mother, Ahab and Jezebel. Though they had been swept as monsters from the earth, and were now lying in the grave, their hellish spirit lived and worked in this their daughter. It is, alas! often so. We have an immortality in others, as well as in ourselves. The men of long-forgotten generations still live in the present. Even the moral pulse of Adam throbs in all. By this fact we are reminded:
1. That the moral qualities of parents may become physical tendencies in their children. The man who voluntarily (and all moral qualities are voluntary productions) contracts habits of falsehood, dishonesty, profanity, incontinence, drunkenness, and general intemperance, transmits these to his children as physical tendencies. This is marvelous, but patent to every observer of society and student of history. Who cannot refer to both men and women who have received an unappeasable craving for strong drinks by the drunken habits contracted by their parents?
2. That the evil moral qualities of parents, reappearing in their children in the form of physical tendencies, is no complete justification for the children's wickedness. This is clear:
(1) From the fact that God has endowed all with sufficient force to control all physical tendencies. Most men have sufficient mental faculties to quench the strongest physical passion.
(2) From the personal consciousness of every sinner. When the conscience is quickened, the greatest liar, debauchee, drunkard, thief, becomes filled with compunctions for the crimes committed. Every sigh of remorse on account of sin is a testimony to the power of the human mind to control the passions.
(3) From the Divine Word as found in the Scriptures. "Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free." "He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons."
3. That the way to raise the human race is to improve their moral qualities. Indoctrinate men's souls with truth, benevolence, piety, chastity, purity, etc; and you help on the race to its millennium. And in no other way. The gospel is the instrument for this.
II. OUTWITTED WICKEDNESS. NO doubt this woman, who thought she had destroyed all the "seed royal," considered she had made her way to the throne clear and secure. For six long years she had no conception that one had escaped her bloody purpose. Now it was revealed to her, and her disappointment maddens her with vengeance, and excites the desperate cry, "Treason! Treason!" It is ever so. "He disappointeth the devices of the crafty." History abounds with the examples of the bafflement of wrong. The conduct of Joseph's brethren, Ahithophel, Sanballat, Haman, and the Jewish Sanhedrin in relation to Christ, are instances. Satan, the arch-enemy of the universe, will exemplify this through all the crises of his accursed future. A piece of conduct, wrought by the highest human skill and earnest industry, if not in accord with the immutable principles of right and truth, can no more succeed in its purpose than a house can stand, which is built regardless of the resistless laws of gravitation. The architecture may look well, the materials be most precious, and the production be most costly, yet down it must come, and confound the builder. Craftiness uses lies as concealment and defense, but the eternal law of Providence makes them snares. One lie leads to another, and so on, until they become so numerous that the author involves himself in contradictions, and he falls and flounders like a wild beast in a snare.
III. JUST RETRIBUTION. "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 …. And 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 …. And 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." Thus Soepe intereunt aliis meditantes necem. Those who plot the destruction of others often fall themselves. Here is:
1. A terrible retribution.
2. A prompt retribution. It came on her here before she passed into the other world. Retribution is going on now and here.
3. A retribution administered by human hands. Truly "the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; yet he shall perish forever …. Yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night." An Oriental act thus vividly describes the retribution that must follow wickedness—
"All vice to which man yields in greed to do it,
Or soon or late, be sure, he'll sorely rue it;
Experience deep, howe'er false seeming blind him,
Surcharged with retribution, out will find him.
It locks upon his soul a fatal fetter,
Explodes throughout his face in horrid tatter,
Over his shameless eyeballs brings a blurring,
Keeps in his heart a deadly fear-load stirring;
At all pure joys with fiendish talon snatches,
The noblest traits from out his being catches;
Each beam and hope and vision darkens,
His conscience stuns whene'er towards heaven be hearkens;
On goading thorns his sleepless longing tosses,
With soul remorse-foam pleasure's waves embosses.
Sometimes from phantom-fears impels him flying,
Sometimes in frantic horrors shrouds his dying;
Now turns his dearest friends to cease to love him,
Now spreads avenging Siva's form above him;
Makes this world black with prison walls and gibbets,
And in the next escape from hell prohibits.
The whole creation's strange and endless dealing,
In spite of shields and veils and arts concealing,
Proclaims that whosoe'er is long a sinner
Can only be by it of woe a winner."
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
2 Kings 11:1-3
Athaliah was the evil genius of Judah, as Jezebel was of Israel. The mother was slain, but, unwarned by her fall, the daughter snatched at the reins of power, and held the throne for six years. The track of both was marked by violence, bloodshed, and political convulsion.
I. THE WICKEDNESS OF ATHALIAH. Ahaziah's death gave Athaliah her opportunity. Nothing could more clearly reveal the wicked disposition of the woman than the means by which she raised herself to the throne. When she "saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal."
1. She was a woman, yet, to pave her way to power, she did not hesitate to crush every feminine instinct in her breast, and to imbrue her hands in innocent blood.
2. She was a mother, yet she remorselessly put to death her own grandchildren. The youngest was a babe, but her savage temper made no distinctions. Her son's offspring were only rivals, to be got out of the way by murder. In this tigress-like nature of the queen-mother all womanhood is effaced. Truly "the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10).
II. THE PRESERVATION OF JOASH. After all, Athaliah's end was not gained. Unknown to this savage woman, one of Ahaziah's sons, the youngest, was saved from the general massacre by his aunt Jehosheba, and, after a temporary concealment in the store-chamber of the palace, was conveyed to the temple, and there secretly brought up. We have in this deliverance of the young Joash:
1. An example of faith and courage. IS was "by faith" that the pious Jehosheba did this daring act, even as it was by faith that the parents of Moses hid their goodly child (Hebrews 11:23). And faith, in this instance as in the other, had its reward.
2. A proof of God's faithfulness to his promise. It had been promised to David that he should never want a man to sit on his throne (1 Kings 8:25). That promise seemed now frustrated, when to outward appearance every descendant of David was destroyed. But "the counsel of the Lord standeth forever" (Psalms 33:11). No device of man can prevail against that.
3. An illustration of how God can defeat the designs of the wicked. Skillfully as the wicked lay their plots, there is generally something overlooked, forgotten, which brings them to naught. Some witness of their crimes is left undetected. They seem to have closed up every chink and cranny through which defeat could enter, yet it is found that some loophole has been left. A good and true cause may be safely left in the hands of God. He will not suffer it to fail.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
2 Kings 11:4-21
The coronation of Joash.
For six years Athaliah was dominant in Israel. Jehoiada meanwhile kept his secret well. Least of all did the usurping queen suspect that a legitimate heir to the throne was in hiding in the temple almost at her own palace door. Her reign must have grown well-nigh unendurable to the people, when they were so willing as the event proved to throw it off. At the six years' end Jehoiada prepared for his coup d'etat.
I. JEHOIADA'S PREPARATIONS.
1. Joash produced. The good priest found it necessary to proceed with caution. His measures were taken with skill and secrecy. He first took into his confidence the five centurions of the life-guards, made them swear an oath of fidelity, then produced the king, and showed him to them. The soldiers entered into his plan at once. The risks were enormous, but God's shield was around this one remaining "lamp" of David's house, and did not allow its tremulous light to be extinguished. The boy-king was the feeble ark that bore the fortunes of David's house and of Messianic promise. Had he perished, God's Word would have fallen to the ground. The Chronicler tells how the captains of hundreds went forth and secretly spread among the Levites and chief of the fathers of Israel the tidings that there was still a living heir of David's line, and how these came to Jerusalem, and saw the young king too (2 Chronicles 23:2, 2 Chronicles 23:3). It is remarkable that a fact known to so many persons did not in some way leak out. But the people were of one heart and one soul, and Athaliah was left in her false security without a single friend to warn her of her danger.
2. The events sabbath. The day chosen for the public production of the king was probably a feast-day. Otherwise the large concourse of people from all parts of the land could hardly have failed to attract attention. It was a sabbath and an high day—"the better the day, the better the deed." What was contemplated was indeed a revolution, and might involve bloodshed; but it was also a reviving of the fallen theocracy, a replanting of the red of Jesse, and therefore fit work for the sabbath. Nothing that favorably affects the fortunes of the kingdom of God is out of place on the sabbath day. Jehoiada made careful strategic preparations, combining apparently the Levites who went on and off duty in the temple with the life-guards under the captains, and assigning to different companies their respective posts.
3. The place and temple guarded. Guards were told off both for the "king's house" and for the temple.
(1) those who entered on duty on the sabbath were divided into three parts, and posted round the palace. One third was posted at the principal entrance; a second third at "the gate Sur"—perhaps a side gate—and the remaining third was placed at a gate which communicated with the temple (2 Kings 11:19), where the guards or "runners" were usually stationed.
(2) Those, again, who went off duty on the sabbath were placed within the court of the temple, stretching across from side to side, to guard the person of the king. To these weapons were given from David's spears and shields, which were in the temple of the Lord. While trusting in God, Jehoiada thus took every human precaution. Faith and works co-operate in God's service. Our dependence should be as entirely in God as if human means were unavailing, yet our use of means should be as diligent as if everything depended on their employment.
II. THE KING CROWNED.
1. The safety of the king's person. When the young king Joash was brought forth, and placed on a raised stand in the temple court, his guard stood firmly around him, each man clutching his weapon. The instructions were that any person attempting to break through the ranks should at once be slain. The person of David's son was too precious to be left without an effectual guard. Yet more effectual is the guard which God places round his sons (Psalms 34:6, Psalms 34:7).
2. The ceremony of coronation. The act of coronation of the child-king was then proceeded with. Jehoiada presided at the ceremony.
(1) The crown—visible symbol of royal office—was placed upon his head. God's priest could well preside at the coronation of God's king. As son of David, Joash was the legitimate heir of the throne. Royal authority is from God, and investiture at the hands of God's ministers is our acknowledgment of this. Only those who rule by Divine favor can look for a blessing on their crown.
(2) He had put upon his head "the testimony," i.e. the Law of Moses, by which kings of Judah and Israel were to be guided (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). "Finely are both the crown and the book presented to the king, that he might be not only mighty, but also wise, or, as we may say, know God's Word and right. Thus, even now, we make kings with a sword and book (Luther). The highest in the land are not above the authority of God's Word. He by whom "kings reign" is mightier than the mightiest, and requires from the monarch the same allegiance as from the humblest of his subjects. A nation is happy, prosperous, and blessed only when God's Law is made the rule of its policy and the foundation of its government (Deuteronomy 4:6-8).
(3) He was anointed with oil. For where God gives office he gives also qualification for that office. Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Word without the Spirit to interpret it, and to give strength for obedience to it, is useless. Kings need the grace of God for the discharge of their duties as much as, even more than, ordinary people. Jesus is God's King, "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows" (Hebrews 1:9).
(4) He was acknowledged as king by popular acclamation. "They clapped their hands and said, God save the king!" The Divine choice was ratified by the free election of the people. While kingly, like all other authority, is derived from God, a throne is only strong when it rests on the loyal affection of the body of the people.
III. THE DEATH OF ATHALIAH.
1. The shout of a king. Athaliah, though queen of Judah, was not a worshipper of the God of Judah. While the scenes above described were being transacted, she was either in her own "house of Baal," or in the palace. But now the ringing shouts of the people apprised her that something was wrong. The sight of the guards posted round her palace would add to her alarms. She hastened to the temple, and there beheld a spectacle which told her that her hour was come. The young Joash was standing on his platform, the crown on his head, the captains and trumpeters around him, while the air rang with the joyful huzzas of the people, with the notes of the silver trumpets, and with cries of "Let the king live!" Only in part could Athaliah read the meaning of the scene, for she did not know who this crowned boy was. But she saw enough to tell her that the loyalty of the people had found a new center, and that her power was gone. The rejoicings of the people would be gall and wormwood to her heart, for they told her, not only that it was all over with her authority, but that the people were glad it was so. How swiftly, as by a bolt from a clear sky, does retribution often fall upon the wicked! An hour before Athaliah had no suspicion of any calamity. She had but to speak, and guards and servants were ready to yield her all obedience; now her authority has departed like a pricked bubble, and she stands helpless among a multitude—none so poor as to do her reverence. The passage is an illustration of the proverb, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn" (Proverbs 29:2).
2. Treason to a traitress. When Athaliah saw what was being done, heard the shouts, and witnessed the rejoicings, she rent her garments, and cried, "Treason! Treason!" Treason is an act or series of acts designed to compass the overthrow of a constituted government, and is generally held to be punishable by death, It is wicked and illegitimate governments which make most of the crime of treason, and most severely enforce the penalties against it. Yet it is plain that these penalties are justified only on the supposition that the government against which the treason is directed is a legitimate one. A government which is itself born and bred of treason has no moral justification for punishing treason in others. Athaliah was queen, not by God's will, but in defiance of all right and morality. She had usurped the throne, and killed (or thought she had killed) the rightful heirs to it. Treason against such a government, itself the offspring of the blackest treachery, was not a crime, but might be the highest duty. Still, as if some horrid iniquity was being practiced, the traitress rends her clothes, and cries, "Treason!" Her own treason is unthought of; she sees only the treason of her enemies. Is not this state of mind too common? Men are loud in denouncing transgressions which they themselves are flagrantly guilty of. They point to the mote in another's eye, without reflecting on the beam in their own. Callous as to their own falsehood, selfishness, and dishonesty, they detect in an instant, and loudly denounce, the same vices in their neighbors, especially when practiced towards themselves. It is this which renders them inexcusable. For the power to detect sin in others implies a knowledge of the law which condemns the person judging if he does the same things (Romans 2:1).
3. Just retribution. The order of Jehoiada was that if any one ventured to follow Athaliah, he was to be killed with the sword. But no one seems to have shown any pity for the fallen queen. The downfall of her power was thus complete. A new government having been constituted, her own attempt to excite rebellion now fell under the category of treason, and was punishable. Jehoiada gives orders for her being taken beyond the temple bounds, and there slain. We see hands laid upon her, and she is led away, or goes, "by the way by the which the horses come into the king's house," and in that place of stables meets her death. An inglorious end! But what glory can we look for to crown a career of sin? In Athaliah, the last member of Ahab's cursed house met a deserved doom. Judgment against the sinner may not always be executed speedily, but the stroke will surely fall at last (Ecclesiastes 8:11).
IV. A COVENANT WITH JEHOVAH.
1. The covenant with God renewed. The people had received, as if from heaven, a new king of the line of David, and the moment was auspicious for a new covenant being entered into, and formally ratified, with God. It is good when special mercies are made an occasion of renewal of vows. The covenant promoted by Jehoiada wan twofold.
(1) It was a covenant between the king and people and Jehovah. In this transaction they solemnly pledged themselves to be the Lord's people. National covenanting is only appropriate when it springs from the spontaneous impulse of the masses of the people. Among the Hebrews, who, by the very form of their national existence, were a people in covenant with Jehovah, such renewal of religious vows was specially suitable. The idea of a "people of the Lord" is now embodied, not in a national form, but in the Church of Christ. Great is the honor of forming part of this "chosen generation," this "royal priesthood," this "holy nation," this "peculiar people" (1 Peter 2:9), and we should often recall the fact to ourselves, and make it the basis of new consecration.
(2) It was a covenant between the king and the people. He, on his part, would pledge himself to maintain the government according to the Law of God; and they, on theirs, would promise him loyalty and obedience. Happy is it, when rulers and people stand in this bond of mutual confidence!
2. Zeal in religious reform. The earnest spirit awakened by this solemn act of covenant immediately showed itself in zealous efforts for the removal of abuses. We read that, not one or two, but "all the people of the land," set themselves to reforming, work.
(1) They went into the house of Baal, and brake it down. A house of Baal in Jerusalem, and possibly on the temple hill, was a deliberate insult to Jehovah. No respect for the beauty or costliness of the building was allowed to save it from destruction. When higher interests are involved, artistic and sentimental considerations must go to the wall.
(2) They brake in pieces "thoroughly" Baal's altars and images. Idolatry was to be thoroughly rooted out in accordance with the word of the testimony (Deuteronomy 12:1-3).
(3) They slew Mattan, the high priest of Baal. By the Law of Israel his life was forfeited through the practice of idolatry.
(4) They restored the worship of the temple. This is implied in the statement, "The priest appointed officers over the house of the Lord." It is evident from the next chapter that the temple service had been allowed to become greatly disorganized. The zeal of these reformers had, therefore, its positive side. They sought to build up as well as cast down. The false worship of God was replaced by the true. Court fashion goes a long way in determining preferences in religion. When Athaliah worshipped Baal, it was fashionable to neglect Jehovah; now that Joash restored the worship of Jehovah, people flocked back to the temple. Those in high stations have great responsibilities, and not least for the examples they set in religion.
3. The joy of the people. Joash was now escorted in grand procession to the palace of his fathers. Athaliah was dead, and he sat on the throne of the kings. Joy filled the people's hearts, and quiet reigned in the city. When godliness is victorious, it diffuses peace and gladness through all minds.—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Kings 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany