2 Kings 12:1-21
THE REIGN OF JOASH. THE REPAIR OF THE TEMPLE. WAR OF JOASH WITH HAZAEL, AND HIS DEATH BY A CONSPIRACY.
2 Kings 12:1-3
The writer of Kings is extremely brief and incomplete in his account of the reign of Joash. He seems to have had a great tenderness for him, and to have determined that he would put on record nothing to his discredit. We have to go to Chronicles (2 Chronicles 24:1-27.) for a complete account, and for an estimate of the real character of the king and of his reign. Both writers appear to have drawn from the same original document, but the writer of Kings made large omissions from it. In a few points only is his narrative fuller than Chronicles.
2 Kings 12:1
In the seventh year of Jehu. Athaliah began to reign very soon after the accession of Jehu (2 Kings 11:1), and reigned six full years (2 Kings 12:3). The first year of Joash was thus parallel with Jehu's seventh. Jehoash—or Joash, as he is called sometimes in Kings (2 Kings 11:2; 2 Kings 13:1, 2 Kings 13:10), and always in Chronicles—began to reign; and forty years reigned he in Jerusalem—the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 24:1) and Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 2 Kings 9:8. § 4) agree—and his mother's name was Zibiah of Beersheba. Josephus calls her "Sabia."
2 Kings 12:2
And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him. So the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Luther, De Wette, Keil, Bahr, and our Revisers. Only Ewald and Thenius attempt to make the passage contradict Chronicles by translating, "Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days, because Jehoiada the priest had instructed him." But this translation is very forced and unnatural. The writer evidently intended to add a qualifying clause to his statement that Joash reigned well "all his days," but did not wish to draw too much attention to it.
2 Kings 12:3
But the high places were not taken away. So it had been with the best of the previous kings of Judah, as Asa (1 Kings 15:14) and Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:43); and so it was with the other "good" kings (2 Kings 14:4; 2 Kings 15:4, 2 Kings 15:35) until the reign of Hezekiah, by whom the high places were removed (see below, 2 Kings 18:4). We must remember that it was Jehovah who was worshipped in the "high places," not Baal, or Moloch, or Ashtoreth (see the comment on l Kings 2 Kings 15:14). The people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. The people, not the king, in the earlier portion of his reign; but in the later portion, probably the king also (see 2 Chronicles 24:17, 2 Chronicles 24:18).
2 Kings 12:4-16
The repair of the temple. It is rather surprising that the temple had not been thoroughly repaired by Jehoiada during the long minority of Joash, when he must practically have had the sole management of affairs. Probably he did repair the worst of the damage done by Athaliah's orders (2 Chronicles 24:7), which may have been very considerable, but neglected the restoration of such portions of the edifice as appeared to him of secondary importance, as the walls of the courts and the outbuildings. Joash, however, when his minority came to an end, and he succeeded to the administration of the state, took a different view. To him the completion of the repairs seemed a pressing business. Probably he thought the honor of God required the entire obliteration of Athaliah's wicked proceedings, and the renewal of the temple's old glories. His six years' residence within the temple precincts may have also inspired him with a love of the building as a building.
2 Kings 12:4
And Jehoash said to the priests. The initiative of Joash is strongly marked, alike in Kings and Chronicles (2 Chronicles 24:4). The general weakness of his character, and want of vigor and decision, make it the more surprising that he should in this particular matter have shown himself capable of taking his own line and adhering to it (2 Kings 12:7). He has scarcely received from historians the credit that is due to him for his persistent and successful efforts to accomplish an object which was for the honor of religion, and which was yet not pressed forward by the priesthood. Certainly he was no mere puppet of the priestly order. All the money of the dedicated things that is brought into the house of the Lord; rather, all the money of the holy gifts that is brought into the house of the Lord; i.e. all that ye receive from the people in the way of money. This money accrued from three sources, which the king proceeded to enumerate. First, even the money of every one that passeth the account; i.e. the census money—the aggregate of the half-shekels received from the males of above twenty years old, whenever a census was taken (Exodus 30:12-16). The rendering, "current money," preferred by Thenius, Bahr, and our Revisers, is shown by Keil to be untenable. Secondly, the money that every man is set at; i.e. the redemption money, derived in part from the payments made for redeeming the firstborn (Numbers 18:15, Numbers 18:16); in part from the sums which the priests exacted from such as had vowed themselves (Le 27:2-8), or those belonging to them, to God.
And [thirdly] all the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord; i.e. all the free-will offerings that should be made in money by any of the Israelites.
2 Kings 12:5
Let the priests take it to them, every man of his acquaintance. The money was to be gathered of "all Israel," out of all "the cities of Judah" (2 Chronicles 24:5). The priests of each locality were to be the collectors, and would therefore gather "of their acquaintance." As we cannot suppose that very much would accrue from either the first or second source, since a census was rarely taken, and personal vows were not very common, we must regard the command of Joash as, in the main, the authorization of a general collection throughout the kingdom of voluntary contributions towards the temple repairs, and so as analogous to the "letters" which our own sovereigns, or archbishops, issue from time to time for collections in churches for special objects. And let them repair the breaches of the house, wheresoever any breach shall be found. The "breaches," or dilapidations, may have been caused, partly by the neglect of necessary repairs during the reigns of Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah; but they were mainly the result of the willful violence of Athaliah (2 Chronicles 24:7). Apparently, the damage done must have been very great.
2 Kings 12:6
But it was so, that in the three and twentieth year of King Jehoash the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house. No charge is made against the priests of malversation or embezzlement. They had simply been negligent. Probably very little money had come in; and they had not been very active in their endeavors to obtain larger contributions. It must be remembered that what went to the fabric fund would, for the most part, be a deduction from the ordinary revenue of the temple, which was not, perhaps, much in excess of the ordinary demands upon it. We can, therefore, quite understand that the king's policy would not be popular with the priests (see 2 Chronicles 24:5). Still, it is to be observed that they are not said to have executed no repairs, but only not to have "made haste" and completed their task by the time that the king looked for its completion.
2 Kings 12:7
Then King Jehoash called for Jehoiada the priest. So, too, the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 24:6). The king did not take the matter into his own hands, but consulted with the head of the priestly order on the best steps to take in order to expedite the repairs. He made no" charge," delivered no "rebuke." He did not "remove the administration of the funds from the hands of the delinquent order" (Stanley). On the contrary, he left it in their hands (2 Kings 12:9-11). Two changes only were made:
1. A public chest was set up conspicuously in the temple court, near the great altar, and the people were invited to bring their contributions to the temple, and hand them to the priests, who should straightway deposit them in the chest in the sight of the congregation.
2. The chest was opened from time to time, and the money counted, in the presence of the high priest and of a royal secretary. It was then delivered over to "the overseers of the house"—persons, probably, of the priestly order—appointed by Jehoiada (2 Kings 11:18), who disbursed it to the carpenters and masons (2 Kings 12:11, 2 Kings 12:12). The chest was a sort of tangible evidence to the people of the purpose to which their contributions would be applied, and naturally stimulated their giving. The presence of the king's officer at the counting of the money, was equivalent, not really to an "audit" (Stanley), but to a publication of the accounts, and would prevent any suspension of the work, so long as it was clear that the money found in the chest had not been expended. Thus a new impetus was given to the movement. The measures taken completely answered. Contributions flowed in rapidly, and in a few years the whole work was accomplished (see 2 Chronicles 24:13, 2 Chronicles 24:14). And the other priests, and said unto them, Why repair ye not the breaches of the house? This shows that no repairs were going on 'in the twenty-third year of Joash, but not that none had been done previously. Now therefore receive no more money of your acceptance. This was a revocation of the order given in 2 Kings 12:5, and necessarily put an end to the local collections, which that order required. But deliver it for the breaches of the house. If the priests were not to "receive the money," they could not "deliver" it. Obscurity is introduced by the desire for extreme brevity. In point of fact, they were to "receive" (2 Kings 12:9), but in a new way.
2 Kings 12:8
And the priests consented to receive no more money of the people—i.e; to put an end to the local collections ordered in 2 Kings 12:5—neither to repair the breaches of the house; i.e. neither to be responsible severally for laying out the money which they collected in repairs.
2 Kings 12:9
But Jehoiada the priest took a chest. The writer of Chronicles says, "At the king's commandment, they made a chest" (2 Chronicles 24:8). The suggestion was probably the king's, but the ecclesiastical and civil authorities worked harmoniously in the business. And bored a hole in the lid of it—as hundreds of thousands have done since his time—and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one cometh into the house of the Lord. The altar intended is, of course, the altar of burnt offering, which was in the court of the temple, directly opposite the porch. The chest was placed outside the sanctuary (2 Chronicles 24:8), and, indeed, outside the porch, on the right hand as one entered into the court by the north door. It was thus very conspicuous. And the priests that kept the door—i.e. the door of the court—put therein all the money that was brought into the house of the Lord. The priests received the money from those who offered, at the gate of the court, and, proceeding to the chest, dropped it in through the aperture. A man could not see that all which he had given was put in, but he reckoned on the good faith of the priest, and was satisfied.
2 Kings 12:10
And it was so, when they saw that there was much money in the chest. "When they saw" means "when they perceived." They would not see that the chest was becoming full, but would know by the weight, and perhaps by the sound which the money made when it was dropped in. That the king's scribe. "Royal secretaries" were common in ancient Persia, and often acted as the king's commissioners (Herod; 3.128; Xen; 'Cyrop.,' 8.6. § 16; 'AEcouom.,' 4.8). Such persons are seen on the Assyrian sculptured slabs, with a roll of paper or parchment in one hand, and a pen in the other, taking account for the king of the spoil brought in from foreign countries. And the high priest. Since the time of Joshua, the high priest had been called simply "the priest." The restoration of the full title (hac-cohen hag-gadol) marks the increasing power of the priests and the diminishing power of the kings under the later monarchy. Came up, and they put up in bags, and told, the money that was found in the house of the Lord. Money was ordinarily put up in bags, containing a certain definite amount, the mouth of the bag being then tied round with a string (see 2 Kings 5:23; and comp. Proverbs 7:20; Isaiah 46:6; Haggai 1:6). Hence putting money up in bags was sometimes called, as in this place, "binding it." No doubt they "told," or counted, the money first, and put it in the bags afterwards; but ὒστερον πρότερον is a very common figure of speech.
2 Kings 12:11
And they gave the money, being told—rather, after weighing it—into the hands of them that did the work, that had the oversight of the house of the Lord. It must be remembered that no coins existed as yet; and the lumps of silver which passed as shekels and half shekels, were of very uncertain weight. To know the value of the money in each bag, it was necessary, not only to count the pieces, but to weigh each bag separately. The bags, when weighed, were handed over by the high priest and the royal secretary to the officers whom Jehoiada had appointed (2 Kings 11:18) to have the general superintendence of the "house." And they laid it out to the carpenters and builders, that wrought upon the house of the Lord. The "paid it out" of our Revisers is better than "laid it out." The overseers of the temple paid over to the carpenters and the builders, from time to time, such money as was needed for the work done or doing.
2 Kings 12:12
And to masons; rather, to the masons. The "masons" (goderim) are the actual artisans who worked under instructions from the "builders." And hewers of stone—or, stone-cutters—rather, those who sawed up the stones on the spot, than those who hewed them in the quarries—and to buy timber and hewed stone to repair the breaches of the house of the Lord. The writer of Chronicles mentions "workers in iron and brass" (bronze) also (2 Chronicles 24:12). Probably, when once the work was taken thoroughly in hand, it was found that repairs of all sorts and kinds were needed. The temple had stood for a hundred and thirty-six years, and up to this time it had, so far as we know, undergone no repairs at all. Certainly none are mentioned. And for all that was laid out for the house to repair it. This general clause shows how wide were the powers of the overseers. The suspicions and jealousies which modern writers have imagined contrast remarkably with the general confidence and trust which seem to have prevailed among all those concerned in the repairs.
2 Kings 12:13
Howbeit there was not made for the house of the Lord bowls of silver, snuffers, basins, trumpets, any vessels of gold, or vessels of silver, of the money that was brought into the house of the Lord; i.e. while the repairs were incomplete, while the work was still going on, no portion of the money taken from the chest was expended in the purchase of new sacred vessels, whether of gold or silver, whether howls, or snuffers, or basins, or trumpets the whole was rigidly applied to the renovation of the temple building. There is no contradiction between this statement and that of the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 24:14), who tells us that, after the entire repairs were completed, the surplus money was expended in this way, on the purchase of "vessels to minister and to offer, spoons, and vessels of gold and silver." We can well understand that, after the spoiling of the temple by successive kings to buy off enemies—by Rehoboam to content Shishak (1 Kings 14:26), by Asa to gratify Benhadad (1 Kings 15:18), and by Joash himself (2 Kings 12:18) to procure the retreat of Hazael from the siege of Jerusalem, the vessels of the temple must have required renovating almost as much as the fabric itself; and when it was found that there remained a surplus over and above all that was needed for building purposes, we cannot wonder that it was applied to the renewal of the vessels, absolutely essential as they were for the service of the sanctuary.
2 Kings 12:14
But they gave that—i.e; the whole money contributed—to the workmen—equivalent to "the carpenters, builders, masons, hewers of stone," etc; mentioned in 2 Kings 12:11, 2 Kings 12:12—and repaired therewith the house of the Lord; i.e. expended the money on the repairs.
2 Kings 12:15
Moreover they reckoned not with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to be bestowed on workmen. Society rests upon faith and trust. In all business transactions confidence must be reposed in some one, whose character is the guarantee of his honesty. In the case before us, the overseers of the temple were the persons trusted to expend the money aright (see 2 Kings 12:11). The overseers (2 Kings 11:18) had been appointed by the high priest. For they dealt faithfully; i.e. honestly.
2 Kings 12:16
The trespass money. When a man had injured another, he was bound by the Law to make compensation to the injured party at the valuation of the priest, with the addition of one-fifth more than the value (Le 2 Kings 6:2-6; Numbers 5:6-8). The compensation was, primarily, to be made to the man himself; secondarily, if he were dead, to his nearest kinsman; finally, if he had left no kinsman, to the priest. And sin money. According to the Law, the priest was entitled to no money with a sin offering; but it seems to have become customary to make the priest who offered it a voluntary gift, to compensate him for his trouble. Such free gifts the priest was by the Law (Numbers 5:10) entitled to receive. Was not brought into the house of the Lord—i.e. it was not deposited in the chest, or applied to the repairs, but—it was the priests'.
2 Kings 12:17, 2 Kings 12:18
The war of Joash with Hazael. A considerable gap occurs between 2 Kings 12:16 and 2 Kings 12:17. We learn from Chronicles some particulars of the interval. Not long after the completion of the repairs, Jehoiada, who had lived to a good old age in complete harmony with the monarch, expired. His piety, and his good services, as preserver of the house of David, as restorer of the temple-worship, and joint-repairer with Joash of the temple itself, were regarded as entitling him to extraordinary funeral honors; and by general consent he was interred within the city of Jerusalem, in the sepulchers of the kings (2 Chronicles 24:16). His removal led to a fresh religious revolution. "The Jewish aristocracy, who perhaps had never been free from the licentious and idolatrous taint introduced by Rehoboam and confirmed by Athaliah, and who may well have been galled by the new rise of the priestly order, presented themselves before Joash, and offered him the same obsequious homage that bad been paid by the young nobles to Rehoboam. He … feeling himself released from personal obligations by the death of his adopted father, threw himself into their hands. Athaliah was avenged almost upon the spot where she had been first seized by her enemies". Joash began by allowing the reintroduction of idolatry and grove-worship (2 Chronicles 24:18), and then, when remonstrated with by Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, who had succeeded his father in the office of high priest, had the remonstrant set upon by the people and slain. The writer of Chronicles closely connects this murderous deed with the Syrian war, which followed it within a year (2 Chronicles 24:23), and was generally regarded as a Divine judgment.
2 Kings 12:17
Then Hazael King of Syria went up, and fought against Gath. Hitherto Judah had been safe from any attack on the part of Syria, since Israel had been interposed between the two powers. Now, however, that Hazael had conquered from Jehu the entire trans-Jordanic territory (2 Kings 10:33), the case was wholly altered—Judah and Syria had become conterminous along the line of the lower Jordan, and Syria could invade Judaea at any moment. It is surprising that Gath should have been the special object of attack, since Oath (Abu-Gheith) lay remote from the Syrian frontier, in the southwestern part of Judaea, and could only be reached from Syria by an enemy who was not afraid of leaving Jerusalem behind him. Gath, when last mentioned, was a Judaean city, and was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:8); but it was originally Philistine (1 Samuel 5:1-12 :17), and the Philistines had recovered it before the time of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6). To which power it belonged when Hazael made war upon it is uncertain. And took it—probably took it by storm, and plundered it, but did not attempt an occupation—and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem. If Gath be Abu-Gheith, as appears probable, it would be distant from Jerusalem not less than forty miles in a direct line. If Hazael, however, was returning to the trans-Jordanic country taken from Israel, it would lie in his way, and might naturally tempt him to make a dash at it, more especially as he was flushed with victory.
2 Kings 12:18
And Jehoash King of Judah took all the hallowed things. The writer of Chronicles tells us that, first of all, there was a battle. "The army of the Syrians came with a small company of men, and the Lord delivered a very great host into their hand" (2 Chronicles 24:24). The loss was especially heavy among the nobles, who officered the Jewish army. Much plunder was taken by the visitors (2 Chronicles 24:23). Then, probably, the siege of the city was commenced, and Joash, like Rehoboam and Asa before him (1 Kings 14:26; 1 Kings 15:18), and Hezekiah subsequently (2 Kings 18:15, 2 Kings 18:16), had recourse to the temple treasures, and with them bought off the invader. It is noticeable that Athaliah had not deprived the temple of them previously. That Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram, and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated. Though Jehoram and Ahaziah apostatized so far as to maintain the Baal-worship in Jerusalem, and even to force attendance on it (2 Chronicles 21:11), yet they did not relinquish altogether the worship of Jehovah. That Jehoram called his son, Ahaziah, "possession of Jehovah," and Ahaziah one of his sons, Joash, "whom Jehovah supports," is indicative of this syncretism, which was common in ancient times, but against which pure Judaism made the strongest possible protest. And his own hallowed things—i.e; the gifts which he had himself made to the temple—and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of the Lord. This was probably not much; but some "vessels of gold" had been made (2 Chronicles 24:14) out of the residue of the money subscribed for the repairs. And in the king's house. The royal palace had been plundered by the Arabs and Philistines combined in the reign of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:16, 2 Chronicles 21:17); but in the thirty years that had since elapsed there had been time for fresh accumulations. And sent it to Hazael King of Syria: and he went away from Jerusalem. The personal presence of Hazael at the siege seems to be here implied, while 2 Chronicles 24:23 rather implies his absence. Perhaps he was absent at first, but joined the besiegers after a while.
2 Kings 12:19-21
The close of the reign of Joash—his murder by his servants. Again the narrative of Kings is to be supplemented by that of Chronicles. From Chronicles we learn that, before the withdrawal of the Syrians, Joash had fallen into a severe illness, which confined him to his apartment (2 Chronicles 24:25). This gave opportunity for conspiracy. Among the courtiers were two, perhaps more, whom the fate of Zechariah had grieved, and who were probably opposed to the entire series of later changes in religion which had been sanctioned by Joash (2 Chronicles 24:17, 2 Chronicles 24:18). These persons "made a conspiracy," which was successful, and "slew Joash on his bed" (2 Chronicles 24:25). They then buried him in Jerusalem, but "not in the sepulchers of the kings."
2 Kings 12:19
And the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, are they not written in the chronicles of the kings of Judah? This formal phrase, with which he concludes his account of almost every Jewish king (1 Kings 14:29; 1 Kings 15:7, 1 Kings 15:23; 1 Kings 22:45; 2 Kings 8:23; 2 Kings 14:18; 2 Kings 15:6, etc.), cannot be regarded as an acknowledgment by the author of any special or designed reticence with respect to the reign of Joash. We must suppose him unconscious of any such design. He had to omit much in every case; in the present he happened to omit all the darker shades; and the result was an over-favorable portraiture of the monarch. But, in the providence of God, complete historical justice was secured by the labors and researches of a second inspired writer.
2 Kings 12:20
And his servants arose, and made a conspiracy. By "his servants" officers of his household are probably intended, attendants whose position would give them ready access to his person. And slew Joash in the house of Millo. Joash had probably transferred his residence to "the house of Mille."—the great fortress built by David (2 Samuel 5:9) and Solomon (1 Kings 9:15, 1 Kings 9:24) in Jerusalem—for greater security during the siege; and, being there prostrated by sickness, could not remove from it when the siege was over. Which goeth down to Silla. No commentator has succeeded in explaining this passage. There is no other mention of Silla; and it is difficult to understand how a fortress could be said to "go down" to any place. Our Revisers' conjecture—"on the way that goeth down to Silla"—may be accepted as a possible explanation; but it implies that a word ( בַּדֶּרֶךְ) has dropped out of the text.
2 Kings 12:21
For Jozachar the son of Shimeath; called in Chronicles "Zabad," probably through a corruption of the text. His mother, Shimeath, was, according to Chronicles (2 Chronicles 24:26), an Ammonitess. And Jehozabad the son of Shomer. For "Shomer" we have in Chronicles "Shimrith," which is the feminine form of "Shomer," and we are told that she was a Moabitess. The Jews were at all times fond of taking wives from Moab and Ammon (Ruth 1:4; 1 Kings 11:1; Ezra 9:1, Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 13:23), despite the prohibition of mixed marriages in the Law (see Deuteronomy 7:3). His servants, smote him, and he died (for their motives, see the introductory paragraph), and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David. Some critics (as Thenius and Dean Stanley) see a contradiction between this statement and that of 2 Chronicles 24:25, that he was "not buried in the sepulchers of the kings;" but, as Bertheau, Keil, and Bahr observe. "the two statements are not irreconcilable," since he may have been regarded as "buried with his fathers," if his grave was anywhere in Jerusalem, even though he was excluded from the royal burying-place. And Amaziah his son reigned in his stead. (For the reign of Amaziah, see 2 Kings 14:1-20.)
2 Kings 12:2
Weakness in a monarch almost as bad as wickedness.
The most prominent trait in the character of Joash was his lack of independence and moral weakness. He had no strength of will, no stamina; in the expressive, if inelegant, language of our times, "no backbone." He must always lean upon some one. Let us look at Joash—
I. IN HIS YOUTH. At this time he was so fortunate as to have a natural prop and support in Jehoiada, his uncle by marriage, and his guardian during the years of his minority. Jehoiada's was a strong character, and the life of Joash, while Jehoiada guided his steps, if not marked by any strikingly great actions, was correct, exemplary, worthy of praise. There was piety and right feeling in the pains, which he took to promote the restoration of the temple, and prudence in the measures whereby he succeeded in effecting his purpose. The measures may have been—probably were—suggested by Jehoiada; but the king deserves some credit for adopting them.
οὗτος μενμανάριστος, ὂς αὐτὸς πάντα νοεῖται
φρασσόμενος τά ἔπειτα καὶ ἐς τέλος ἐστὶν ἀμείνω
ἐσθλὸς δ̓ αὖ κᾴκεινος, ὂς εὖ εἰπόντι πίθηται
As the writer of Kings says, "Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him" (2 Kings 12:2). But Jehoiada could not live forever. He reached a very advanced age; but at last he "waxed old and died" (2 Chronicles 24:15), and Joash was left to manage as he might without him. Let us look at him now—
II. IN HIS MIDDLE AGE, AFTER THE DEATH OF JEHOIADA. Apparently his weakness is known, and it is at once assumed that he must put himself under directors. The "princes of Judah" go to him, pay him court, flatter him probably, at any rate offer him unusual honors. And at once he succumbs, and places himself under their influence. We cannot suppose him not to have been aware of what he was doing. He must have known the leanings of the "princes," and have understood that, in adopting them as his advisers, he was giving up all the traditions of his earlier life, and taking a new departure. Such lightness would not have been surprising in a mere youth; but Joash was now at least thirty years of age, probably more, and might have been expected to have formed and settled his principles and his character. Still, experience shows that even thirty years of a pious life, if it has been passed "under tutors and governors," does not fix a man's future in the same line—nay, often leads him to an almost irrepressible desire for revolt, and for departing widely from his antecedents. The desire is a temptation of the devil, and, if yielded to, has devilish results; but it is very often yielded to. Nero's outbreak after he had got rid of Seneca is the most palpable historical example; but the experience of most persons must have shown them scores of instances of men, trained and brought up in good courses till middle life, and then suddenly set free to take their own line, who have plunged into dissipation, impiety, and wickedness of all kinds. The case of Joash is extraordinary, not in its general features, but in the lengths to which he went. Under the influence of the "princes," he allowed the Baal-worship to be reintroduced, and gave it free tolerance.
When prophets remonstrated, and Zechariah denounced God's vengeance on those who had forsaken him (2 Chronicles 24:19, 2 Chronicles 24:20), then Joash, unaccustomed to opposition, was so exasperated that he went the length of murder—murder of a high priest within the precincts of the temple, by the cruet death of stoning, and murder of one for whom he ought to have had a special kindness, in remembrance of the vast benefits which he had received from his father (2 Chronicles 29:22). It is quite possible—nay, probable—that Joash (like Henry II. in the case of Becket) did not deliberately determine on the murder—that hasty words, uttered in extreme exasperation, were seized upon (Stanley) by his too-officious servants, and carried out in act before he could retract them. But this only emphasizes his weakness. A well-intentioned prince, yielding to evil influences, sanctions the most atrocious crime that the temple ever witnessed (Matthew 23:35) and through Ms wellness involves the nation in guilt greater than any that had been incurred by the doings of the most wicked of preceding monarchs.
2 Kings 12:4-8
Inconvenience of setting priests and ministers to serve tables.
However convinced we may be of the honesty of the priests and Levites concerned in collecting money at this time for the repairs of the temple, it is undeniable that their proceedings in the matter created distrust and dissatisfaction. We know too little of the monetary arrangements previously in use among the Jews to see with any real clearness what exactly the complaint of the laity was, or how far the priests and Levites had a satisfactory answer to it. Probably the rules given were not sufficiently definite; and it may also well have been that the priests and Levites were not sufficiently versed in business transactions to understand completely what the rules laid down expressed. We must remember that, in the early Church, when the apostles had to occupy themselves with money matters, it was not long before complaints arose (Acts 6:1), and the apostles refused any longer to "serve tables." The very foundation of society is a division of labor. In an organization like that of the Church, whether Jewish or Christian, it is of extreme importance to disconnect the performance of high spiritual functions from the duty of receiving, apportioning, and disbursing large sums of money. This is so—
I. BECAUSE, AS A GENERAL RULE, THE MOST SPIRITUALITY MINDED OF MEN ARE THE MOST INAPT FOR THE DETAILS OF BUSINESS. Different qualities of mind, qualities offering a strong contrast, and very rarely united in the same person, are requisite for success in business and for winning souls to God; also intimate acquaintance with an entirely different set of facts is in each ease necessary. Spiritually minded men are in many instances woefully deficient in worldly knowledge, know nothing of book-keeping by double entry, and even find a difficulty in remembering the multiplication mine. Their faculties are suited for something higher than "serving tables," and to employ them in such service is to waste valuable material in work for which it is wholly unsuited.
II. BECAUSE, IF BUSINESS TBANSACTIONS ARE ILL MANAGED, SUSPICIONS ARISE, AND GOD'S MINISTERS SHOULD BE ABOVE SUSPICION. A minister's usefulness is gone if once he is suspected in money matters. It is seriously impaired, even if nothing is proved against him beyond incapacity and blundering. Many a clergyman has got into most serious trouble by undertaking work of a worldly kind, which he never ought to have undertaker, and failing in the proper management of it, though his honesty was quite unimpeachable.
III. BECAUSE THE TIME GIVEN BY MINISTERS TO BUSINESS MATTERS MIGHT BE BETTER SPENT IN THE PROPER WORK OF THE MINISTRY. This was what the apostles felt (Acts 6:2-4); they wished to give themselves wholly to "the ministry of the Word and to prayer." Modern clergymen have, in addition, parochial visiting and reading to employ them, both making large demands upon their time, and impossible to be shifted upon others. A congregation will, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, derive far more benefit from their minister having an additional hour a day, or two hours a day, for reading, than from his spending the time in slaving at accounts, collecting the children's pence, looking after clubs, and bargaining for coals or blankets. The study of the Bible, with all the new light which is thrown upon it by recent scholarship and research, is imperative; and it is also essential that a clergy man should hay? such a knowledge of the current and tendencies of modern thought as is only to be maintained by very diligent reading of the popular literature, periodical and other, of the day.
IV. BECAUSE IT PROMOTES HARMONY AND UNION IF THE LAITY ARE EMPLOYED IN THE BUSINESS MATTERS OF THE DISTRICT, OR CHURCH, OR PARISH. In almost every parish or congregation there will be among the laity persons quite fit to undertake the functions whereof we have been speaking. And such persons will in most cases be gratified by being asked to undertake them. They will be glad to be associated with the clergyman in parochial matters, and to relieve him of a portion of his burdens. It will be a satisfaction to them to be doing some work for Christ and his Church, to feel that they are a part of the organization, and that by their gratuitous service they are furthering the cause of their Lord and Master. And the greater intercourse which will thus take place between them and their spiritual guides will foster good feeling and mutual regard and respect.
2 Kings 12:4-15
Church restoration a good work, acceptable to God. David's desire to build God a house is often mentioned to his honor (2 Samuel 7:2; 1 Chronicles 17:1, 1 Chronicles 17:2; 2 Chronicles 6:7; Acts 7:46). Solomon's reputation for piety and zeal rests mainly upon the pains which he took to erect for God's worship a noble and suitable edifice (Wis. 9:8; Ecclesiasticus 47:13; Acts 7:47). The "repairing of the house of God" (2 Chronicles 24:27) by Joash obtained him his place among the good kings (2 Kings 12:2). Josiah's restoration (2 Kings 22:3-7) helped to put him in the higher category of those who were in no way defective (Ecclesiasticus 42:4). Zerubbabel and Jeshua were long held in honor, because they "builded the house, and set up a holy temple to the Lord" (Ecclesiasticus 49:12). It was the great glory of Judas Maccabaeus that he cleansed and "renewed the sanctuary" (1 Macc. 5:1). If God is to have any outward worship at all, if nations are to honor him openly, if men are to join in common prayer for mutual encouragement and edification, there must be buildings for the purpose; and natural reverence requires that they shall be kept solely for the purpose. He who provides such buildings does a good work; he who repairs them when they need it, or restores them when they have gone to decay, shows the same spirit as the original builder, and deserves scarcely less praise. Of course, we assume that both builders and repairers and restorers do their work in a proper frame of mind, and from proper motives; otherwise church-building, like almsgiving or any other good work, may cease to be pleasing to God, or may even become an "offense" to him. Church-builders and church-restorers should see—
I. THAT THEY DO NOT THEIR WORK OUT OF OSTENTATION OR FOR THEIR OWN GLORY. This their conscience will readily tell them if they honestly consult it.
II. THAT THEY DO IT NOT IN A SPIRIT OF MERE AESTHETICISM, OUT OF A LOVE OF ART. Considering the personal character of those who built St. Peter's at Rome, and the dominant spirit of the age, it is difficult to suppose that the main motive at work among the promoters was not the aesthetic one. And there may be a danger of the same kind at the present day, when art is in such high estimation.
III. THAT THEY DO IT NOT OUT OF STRIFE, OR JEALOUSY, OR EMULATION, BUT, IF POSSIBLE, WITH A SINGLE EYE TO GOD'S HONOR, OR, AT ANY RATE, WITH GOD'S HONOR AS THEIR MAIN OBJECT. As some preached the gospel out of strife (Philippians 1:15) in the apostles' time, so it may be that occasionally nowadays the desire of surpassing a neighbor, or outshining a rival, may be at the root of men's munificence in church-building and chapel-building. As "dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to stink" (Ecclesiastes 10:1), so a wrong motive takes away all its sweet savor from a good action.
HOMILIES BY C.h. IRWIN
2 Kings 12:1-3
The influence of a wise counselor.
"Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him."
I. MUCH DEPENDS UPON THE CHARACTER OF THE SOVEREIGN. Compare England under the Stuarts with England under Cromwell or Queen Victoria. An impure and licentious court demoralizes a whole nation. A pure court is a standing rebuke to iniquity in high places. We have much need to pray "for kings, and for all that are in authority." We have much need to be thankful for the character and life of our present sovereign.
II. THE NATIONAL LIFE LARGELY DEPENDS UPON THE CHARACTER OF THE NATION'S COUNSELLORS. In our limited monarchy the "ministers of the Crown" are virtually the rulers of the nation. How important that a Christian nation should have Christen rulers, Christian legislators! The time has surely come when the voice of the Christian people of the British empire should be much more heard in Parliament. It is not so much the politics of party we need, as the politics of Christianity. We want rulers who will remember that "righteousness exalteth a nation." We want our laws to be based upon the eternal law of God. We want legislators who have the fear of God before their eyes. Christian people need to be aroused to their duty in this matter. They should see to it that, so far as they can secure it, Christian men are chosen to represent them in the legislature of the nation.—C.H.I.
2 Kings 12:4-16
The repairing of the temple under Joash: a missionary sermon.
I. THIS WORK HAD ITS ORIGIN IN THE KING'S COMMAND. Kings get a great many hard knocks nowadays. But kings have not been all bad. Considering the fierce light which beats upon a throne, and the special temptations to which they are exposed, perhaps the character of kings will bear investigation as well as the character of many of their critics. If in Jewish history we find a Jeroboam and an Ahab, we also find a Solomon and a Hezekiah. If in Roman history we find a Nero staining with cruelty and bloodshed the imperial purple, we find others like Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, the patrons of literature, philosophy, and the arts. If in our British nation some of our sovereigns were not all they should have been, we can point to the influence for good which many of our rulers have exercised. So, although Joash ended badly, he began well. The first work of Joash and Jehoiada was to pull down the temple of Baal, and destroy his images. Their next work was to repair the temple of the Lord. Not merely had the house of the Lord been neglected for the worship of Baal, but, as we read in 2 Chronicles, "the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim." Joash was grieved that the house of God should be in this shameful condition. He gave command that the temple should be repaired. He instructed the priests and Levites that they were to make collections for this purpose, not only in the temple, but throughout the land, every man from his acquaintance.
1. We have got the command of a King in reference to his Church. The Lord Jesus Christ expects that all who are his people will take an interest in building up that Church. We are first of all to build up the Church of Christ in our own land and in our own district. The professing Christian who enjoys the privileges of a Church, but contributes nothing to its support, is not obeying the teaching of God's Word. Then, also, we are to pray and give and labor for the extension of Christ's kingdom throughout the world. "Let him that heareth say, Come." "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest." Here are three commands of Christ. How are we seeking to fulfill them?
2. The cause of Christian missions rests upon the command of our King. Some may think little of Christian missions. They may make light of their necessity, or undervalue the work they have done—though testimonies to the value of missionary work are becoming more frequent every year from explorers, from scientific men, from statesmen, even from heathen who have not become Christians. But it is enough for the true Christian that Christ has commanded the evangelization of the world. "That command," said the Duke of Wellington, "is the marching orders of the Christian Church."
II. THIS WORK WAS DELAYED BY NEGLECTFUL PRIESTS. Notwithstanding the command of King Joash, which would seem to have been given early in his reign, for a long time nothing was done. The time passed by till the twenty-third year of his reign, and still the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house of the Lord. Joash called the priests and the Levites together, and asked them why they had not carried out the work entrusted to them. Then he took it out of their hands in a certain measure. They who should have been the foremost in their zeal for the house of God had been tardy in this important work. How often it has unhappily been so in the history of the Christian Church! It was through the priesthood of the Western Church in the Middle Ages that the greatest corruptions crept in. Forgetting their spiritual profession, they mixed themselves up with the political strife of their day. The popes aspired to be lords over God's heritage—a claim which Christ forbade his apostles to exercise. They thirsted for temporal power, and put the power of the Church into competition with the governments of the nations, just as the present pope is seeking to do in our own time. They thirsted for wealth and splendor, and thus began the traffic in indulgences against which Luther raised his mighty voice. All this time they were unfaithful to the high commission they professed to hold. They were forgetful of the plain statement of Christ, "My kingdom is not of this world." But this unfaithfulness of the teachers of religion is not confined to the Church of Rome. All Churches have suffered from it at one time or another. How much of the delay in the great work of Christian missions has been due to the neglect and unfaithfulness of religious teachers! For centuries scarcely anything was done to carry the gospel into heathen lands. Protestant missions can scarcely be said to have existed before the nineteenth century. The blight of moderatism, which was over all Christian communities in the last century, was fatal to all missionary effort for the time. But God's work does not depend upon men, or on any class of men. If those who are stewards of God are unfaithful to their trust, God will commit it to other hands. If men enter the sacred stoics of the ministry for the sake of earning a livelihood, God can deprive them even of that. How important for ministers of Christ to remember that they are watchmen upon the walls of Zion, and that if they neglect to warn the sinner, the blood of lost souls will be required at their hands! They are to be teachers and examples of the flock, leaders in every good work. Well it is for the Christian minister when he can say with the Apostle Paul, "I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men, for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God."
III. THIS WORK WAS SUPPORTED BY GENEROUS PEOPLE. We may learn much from this chapter about the place of money in the Church of God. First of all, we see that the people were regularly rated or assessed for the support of religious ordinances. It is to this that Joash refers (verse 4) when he speaks of the money of every one that passeth the account—the money that every man is set at. And in the account which is given in 2 Chronicles it is said that they made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to bring in to the Lord the collection that Moses the servant of the Lord laid upon Israel in the wilderness. When we look into the thirtieth chapter of Exodus, the last chapter of Leviticus, and other passages, we find the clear instructions of God himself on this matter. When the numbering or census of the people was made, each one was assessed at so much for an atonement offering. This money was devoted to maintain the services of the sanctuary. Then again, if any one entered into a special vow to be the Lord's, he incurred special pecuniary obligations, and was rated accordingly. All these offerings Joash ordered to be set apart on this occasion for the repairs of the temple, with the exception of the sin and trespass offerings, which were secured to the priests, and which could not be touched for any other purpose. From these and other details we learn that God expected the Israelites to contribute regularly a fixed sum, in proportion to their income, for the support of religious ordinances. He expected of those who took special vows upon them that they should consecrate more of their money to his service. So God expects of his people still, and particularly of those who make the full profession of Christianity involved in attendance at the Lord's table. Some preacher stated lately that it is no "charity" when we give to the support of the Church with which we are connected. It is merely the payment of a debt—the fulfillment of obligations which every one incurs when he becomes a member of a Christian Church, and obligations which can no more be rightly shirked than any other just and lawful debt. Over and above that, he said, there is, of course, a large margin for the exercise of Christian charity and benevolence. This was the case when Joash appealed to the people to contribute, not only the fixed sum at which they were rated, but also "all the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord." He was not ashamed to appeal to them for money, for it was for a good cause. It was for God's cause, for God's house. He put the chest in a prominent place, where it could be seen (verse 9). And his faithful, earnest appeal was not without effect. We read in 2 Chronicles 24:10 that" all the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the chest, until they had made an end." No doubt they experienced the blessing which is implied in the words, "God loveth a cheerful giver." We need to study God's Word more on this subject of Christian giving. We have seen what the Old Testament rules were. Here is one from the New Testament: "On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him." If we were to give systematically, as these words exhort; if we were to measure our weekly offerings by our prosperity, how much larger our offertories would be! what an overflowing offering of silver and gold would be given to carry the gospel to the heathen!
IV. THIS WORK WAS CARRIED OUT BY FAITHFUL WORKERS. Those are very remarkable words, "Moreover they reckoned not with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to be bestowed on workmen: for they dealt faithfully" (2 Chronicles 24:15). There were faithful workmen, and faithful overseers of the work. And what was the explanation of this unusual confidence on the part of the contributors, and unusual faithfulness on the part of the workers? Ah! there had been a reformation of religion! Wherever true religion flourishes, there there will be honest and upright dealing between man and man. When the great revival of religion took place in Ulster in 1859, the change was soon manifest in the conduct of the whole community. Scenes of strife and turbulence became scenes of kindness and peace. The officers of justice had easy work in maintaining law and order, and at many of the sessions there was absolutely no criminal business. When men are influenced by the fear of God it will not be hard to procure obedience for the law of man. When the love of Christ is in men's hearts there will be love for our fellow-creatures also. May we not say the same of the great work of missions to the heathen, that it is being carried on by faithful workers? Where shall we find such a record of faithfulness, of patience, of devotedness, of perseverance, of heroic courage, as in the life and work of many a humble missionary to heathen lauds? When we remember how many of those who have gone forth as missionaries, in connection with the Church and with the great missionary societies, have sacrificed high literary, or commercial, or professional prospects at home, it is but reasonable that the Christian Church should express its sympathy with such self-denial and devotedness by contributing liberally to the work of foreign missions (vide infra, on 2 Kings 13:14-19).—C.H.I.
2 Kings 12:17-21
The last days of Joash. He began well, but ended badly.
The close of the reign of Joash is a melancholy contrast to its beginning. In a most remarkable way preserved, by the providence of God and the kindness of a God-fearing woman, from the massacre of his brothers; then kept safe in the house of the Lord for six years of his helpless childhood;—one would think he would never have forgotten how much he owed to the watchful care and goodness of God. He had been surrounded with good influences. Jehoiada had watched over him like a father. When he came to the throne, Jehoiada had caused him to enter into a covenant with God. He began his reign with a great religious reformation. He ended it with a shameful forsaking of God. There were three causes of his fall.
1. He retained the high places. His reformation was not complete. The germs of future evil were there. How careful we should be of the beginnings of evil! It seemed a small matter to retain the high places. But that small act of negligence or want of courage prepared the way for national idolatry, and for the ultimate downfall of Joash. It accustomed the people to heathen modes of worship (cf. infra, on 2 Kings 14:1-4).
2. He listened to evil counselors. It was an evil day for Joash when Jehoiada passed away. "Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass" (2 Chronicles 24:17, 2 Chronicles 24:18). Ah! how true it is that "evil communications corrupt good manners"!
3. He disregarded the warnings of God. The Lord "sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord … but they would not give ear" (2 Chronicles 24:19). Zechariah the son of Jehoiada came with a special warning. But here again we see the hardening effect of sin. Not only did Joash pay no attention to his warnings, but with the basest ingratitude, forgetful of all he owed to Jehoiada, Zechariah's father, he put Zechariah to death. The messenger of God may suffer for his faithfulness in rebuking sin, as John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod, but no royal power can stay the judgments of God. Joash, who had slain God's prophet, was himself slain by his own servants. The nation had forsaken God, and God forsook them in their time of need. Such a career as that of Joash shows the necessity for constant watchfulness against sin. Many, like him, begin well, but end badly. They make a fair profession at first, but by-and-by, when troubles or persecutions arise, they are offended. They go back and walk no more with Christ. Or they become worldly minded, and, being engrossed in the present, forget the concerns of eternity. Many might utter the melancholy cry, "Our lamps are gone out." To every one of us the message may well be sent, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."—C.H.I.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
2 Kings 12:1-21
The history of Joash.
"In the seventh year," etc. The whole story of Joash is soon told. He was a son of Ahaziah, and the only one of his children who escaped the murderous policy of Athaliah. "It would seem that this child, whom the pity and affection of a pious aunt (Jehosheba) had preserved, was the only surviving male representative of the line of Solomon. Jehoram, his grandfather, who married Athaliah, in order to strengthen his position on the throne, slew all his brethren, and all his own sons were slain in an incursion by the Arabians, except Ahaziah, the youngest, who succeeded him; while on the death of Ahaziah, his wicked mother, Athaliah, 'arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah,' except the little child Joash, who was rescued from her grasp. So that the unholy alliances formed by the descendants of Solomon, and the manifold disorders then accruing, had reduced everything to the verge of ruin. Measures were concerted by Jehoiada, the high priest, for getting rid of Athaliah, and placing Joash on the throne, after he had attained to the age of seven; and having in his youth the wise and the faithful round his throne, the earlier part of the reign of Joash was in accordance with the great principles of the theocracy. The Lord's house was repaired and set in order, while the temple and idols of Baal were thrown down. But after Jehoiada's death, persons of a different stamp got about him, and, notwithstanding the great and laudable zeal which he had shown for the proper restoration of God's house and worship, a return was made to idolatry to such an extent as to draw forth severe denunciations from Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada. Even this was not the worst, for the faithfulness of Zechariah was repaid with violence; he was even stoned to death, and this, it is said, at the express command of the king. The martyred priest exclaimed as he expired, 'The Lord look upon it, and require;' and it was required as in a whirlwind of wrath. For a Syrian host, under Hazael, made an incursion into Judaea, and both carried off much treasure and executed summary judgment on many in Jerusalem, not excepting Joash himself, whom they left in an enfeebled state, and who was shortly afterwards fallen upon and slain by his servants. Such was the unhappy termination of a career which began in much promise of good, and the cloud under which he died even followed him to the tomb, for while he was buried in the city of David, it was not in the sepulchers of the kings of Judah. He reigned forty years—from B.C. 878 to 838." The narrative, whether we regard it as inspired or not, reminds us of five things worth considering—the dilapidating influence of time upon the best material productions of mankind; the incongruity of worldly rulers busying themselves in religious institutions; the value of the co-operative principle in the enterprises of mankind; the potency of the religious element in the nature of even depraved people; and the power of money to subdue enemies.
I. THE DILAPIDATING INFLUENCE OF TIME UPON THE BEST MATERIAL PRODUCTIONS OF MANKIND. Joash here called upon the priests and the people "to repair the breaches of the house," i.e. the temple. The temple, therefore, though it had not been built more than about a hundred and sixty years, had got into a state of dilapidation, there were breaches in it; where the breaches were we are not told, whether in the roof, the floor, the walls, or in the ceiling. The crumbling hand of time had touched it. No human superstructure, perhaps, ever appeared on the earth built of better materials, or in a better way, than the temple of Solomon. It was the wonder of ages. Notwithstanding this, it was subject to the invincible law of decay. The law of dilapidation seems universal throughout organic nature; the trees of the forest, the flowers of the field, and the countless tribes of sentient life that crowd the ocean, earth, and air, all fall into decay; and so also with the material productions of feeble man. Throughout the civilized world we see mansions, churches, cathedrals, palaces, villages, towns, and cities, in ruins. All compound bodies tend to dissolution; there is nothing enduring but primitive elements or substances. This being so, how astoundingly preposterous is man's effort to perpetuate his memory in material monuments! The only productions of men that defy the touch of time, and that are enduring, are true thoughts, pure sympathies, and noble deeds. He who builds up the temple of a true moral character produces a superstructure that will last through the sweep of ages, the wreck of thrones, and the crash of doom.
II. THE INCONGRUITY OF WORLDLY RULERS BUSYING THEMSELVES IN RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS. Joash was no saint, the root of the matter was not in him; he had no vital and ruling sympathy with the Supreme Being, yet he seemed zealous in the work of repairing the temple. "Then King Joash called for Jehoiada the priest, and the other priests, and said unto them, Why repair ye not the breaches of the house? now therefore receive no more money of your acquaintance, but deliver it for the breaches of the house." Though the conduct of corrupt men in busying themselves with things pertaining to religion is incongruous, alas! it is not uncommon. Such conduct generally springs from one of two things, or from both—policy or superstition. The religion that is popular, whether it be true or false, rulers recognize and sanction. They use the religious element in the community as a means by which to strengthen their thrones and augment their fame. Not only, indeed, are kings actuated thus, but even the corrupt tradesman, lawyer, doctor, etc; must show some interest in the popular religion in order to succeed in his secular pursuits. But superstition as well as policy often prompts corrupt men to busy themselves in matters of religion. Do not many build and beautify churches and subscribe to religions institutions, hoping thereby to escape perdition and to ensure the favor of Heaven? Alas! some of the corruptest men are often most busy in religious affairs. The man that betrayed the Son of God at the last Passover was most busy on that awful night; "his hand was on the table."
III. THE VALUE OF THE CO-OPERATIVE PRINCIPLE IN THE ENTERPRISES OF MANKIND. It would seem that the work of repairing the temple was so great that no one man could have accomplished it. Hence the king called earnestly for the cooperation of all. "And Jehoash said to the priests, All the money of the dedicated things that is brought into the house of the Lord, even the money of every one that passeth the account, the money that every man is set at, and all the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord, let the priests take it to them, every man of his acquaintance: and let them repair the breaches of the house." They obeyed his voice. The people gave the money, and all set to work; the "priest that kept the door," the "high priest," the "carpenters," the "masons," the" builders," the "hewers of stone," etc. By this unity of action "they repaired the house of the Lord." Two remarks may be made concerning the principle of cooperation.
1. It is a principle that should govern all men in the undertakings of life. It was never the purpose of the Almighty that man should act alone for himself, should pursue alone his own individual interests. Men may, and often do, make large fortunes by it, but they destroy their own peace of mind, degrade their natures, and outrage the Divine laws of society. Men are all members of one great body; and was ever a member made to work alone? No; but for the good of the whole, the common weal.
2. It is a principle that has done and is doing wonders in the undertakings of life. Our colleges, hospitals, railways, etc; are all the products of co-operation. The more men get intellectually enlightened and morally improved, the more this principle will be put into operation. This principle, however, has its limits. In spiritual matters it must not infringe the realm of individual responsibility. There is no partnership in moral responsibility. Each man must think, repent, and believe for himself. "Every man must bear his own burden."
IV. THE POTENCY OF THE RELIGIOUS ELEMENT EVEN IN DEPRAVITY. At this time Israel was morally almost as corrupt as the heathen nations. From the beginning Israel was the Church of God in little more than a metaphorical sense. Never in the history of the world has there been a member of the true Church whose sympathies with Jehovah were not supreme. But how many of the Jews had this supreme sympathy? Notwithstanding this, the religious sentiment was in them, as in all men, a constituent part of their natures; and this sentiment is here appealed to, and roused into excitement; and, being excited, men poured forth their treasures and employed their energies for the repairing of the temple. This element in man often sleeps under the influence of depravity, but mountains of depravity cannot crush it; it lies in human nature as the mightiest latent force. Peter the Hermit, Savanorola the priest, Wesley the Methodist, and others in every age, have roused it into mighty action, even amongst the most ignorant and depraved of the race. Cunning priests and crafty king/have appealed to it as the strongest force that can bear them on to the realization of their miserable ends. The truly good and godly must appeal to it if they would accomplish any great work for mankind. By its right action only can men rise; by its dormancy or wrong development men must inevitably fall.
V. THE POWER OF MONEY TO SUBDUE ENEMIES. "Hazael King of Syria … set his face to go up to Jerusalem. And Joash King of Judah took all the hallowed things that … his fathers … had dedicated and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of the Lord … and sent it to Hazael King of Syria: and he went away from Jerusalem." Here is a man, a proud, daring monarch, who was determined to invade Judaea, and to take possession of Jerusalem, relinquishing his designs. What was the force that broke his purpose? Money. It is said that Joash sent gold to Hazael, "and he went away from Jerusalem." Truly money answereth for all things. Money can arrest the march of armies and terminate the fiercest campaigns. After contending armies have destroyed their thousands, it is money alone that brings the battle to a close. Money is the soul of all pacifying treaties. What fools the rulers of the people are not to employ money to prevent war and turn it away from their country! Enemies can be conquered by gifts. Evil can only be overcome by good. "If thine enemy hunger, offer him bread to cat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head."—D.T.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
2 Kings 12:1-3
A mixed character.
The reign of Joash began with bright hopes, showed for a while excellent promise, yet ended ingloriously. To explain this we may consider—
I. JOASH'S ADVANTAGES.
1. He had a pious education. As a child he was brought up by his aunt Jehosheba, who, with her husband the high priest, would instill into his mind the principles of true godliness. In his strict seclusion he was kept free from sights of vice. Like Timothy, he would be taught from a child to know the things that make wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). To have an early training of this kind is an inestimable advantage.
2. He had a good counselor. The early education of our own Queen Victoria was carefully conducted with a view to the royal office she was afterwards to fill. It would not be otherwise with young Joash. Jehoiada would carefully impress upon his mind the principles of good government, and, after his coronation, this holy man continued to be his guide and counselor. So it is said, "Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him." It is a happy thing when a king is willing to receive counsel from older and wiser heads than his own (cf. 1 Kings 12:6-11).
3. He had an excellent opportunity. Joash started with every advantage for reigning well. The people were animated with hatred of idolatry from the experience they had had of it in Athaliah's reign; they were enthusiastic in their return to the worship of Jehovah; they had inaugurated the restoration of the line of David by a new covenant with God, and by zealous acts of reform. The tide was with Joash, if he had shown strength of character sufficient to avail himself of it.
II. JOASH'S WEAKNESS. Circumstances test men, and it was to be proved that, with all his advantages, Joash was a weak king.
1. He lacked independence of judgment. Whether the early seclusion of his life had anything to do with this, we cannot tell; but it seems plain that he was not a king accustomed to think and act for himself, but one who was easily influenced and led by others. His nature was passive clay, on which the judgment of others stamped itself. While Jehoiada lived, he allowed himself to be led by him; and when this good priest and counselor died, he allowed himself as readily to be turned into evil courses by the wicked nobility (2 Chronicles 24:17, 2 Chronicles 24:18).
2. He lacked firmness of will. This defect flowed from the feebleness of judgment now indicated, Joash knew the right, but he had not the courage or persistence to do it when pressure was brought to bear on him in an opposite direction, His life thus proved at last a wretched failure. Notwithstanding Jehoiada's kindness to him, he was betrayed at length into shedding the blood of Zechariah, his benefactor's sea (2 Chronicles 24:20-22).
3. He lacked true surrender of heart to God. This was the prime defect in his character. His goodness, such as it was—and for a time it seemed perfectly genuine—was the result of natural amiableness, of early training, of external influences; it did not spring from a root of true conviction. Therefore, when the sun was up, it was scorched, and withered away (Matthew 13:6). It was goodness like the morning cloud, and the early dew—unenduring (Hosea 6:3). The lesson we learn is the need of a radical change of heart as the foundation of true and enduring piety.
III. JOASH'S IMPERFECT REFORMS. The one point noticed about him at this stage is that, while reforming the worship of the temple, the high places were not taken away as commanded by the Law. This was a reform, it is to be allowed, not easily achieved, but had Joash been a man of more character he might have accomplished it, as Hezekiah did after him (2 Kings 18:4). The fact that he did not attempt it, though popular feeling was so strongly on his side, is an evidence of that weak line in his character which came more clearly to light when Jehoiada was removed.—J.O.
2 Kings 12:4-6
The temple repairs-a good purpose frustrated.
At an early period of his reign, Joash, instigated no doubt by the good Jehoiada, took steps to have the temple put in a proper state of repair.
I. THE REPAIR OF THE TEMPLE PROJECTED.
1. The need of repair. What is stated in Chronicles of the condition of the temple shows how terrible had been the blight which had fallen on true religion in Judah during the reign of Athaliah. "That wicked woman," we are told, "had broken up the house of God"—probably carried away its stones to build or adorn her own house of Baal; or, perhaps, had broken down part of the courts to make room for her temple on the same hill. Moreover, she had taken away all the dedicated things to bestow upon the house of Baal (2 Chronicles 24:7). There was thus much work to be done in repairing the temple, as the numbers of workmen afterwards employed show. Many are the inroads of the world upon the Church—God's spiritual temple; and any breaches found in its walls should give rise to earnest desires and efforts to see them mended.
2. The resolve to repair. Joash gave orders that the repairing of the temple should be proceeded with. He had, perhaps, by this time attained his majority. But it is a singular thing that, with such a wave of reforming zeal as passed over the nation at the time of his accession, the people themselves should have been content to let the temple lie out of repair so long. Care for God's house is one of the ways of showing honor to God himself. Yet how slow men are to move, or make sacrifices, that God's worship may be suitably provided for! They are content to dwell in ceiled houses, while God's house lies waste (Haggai 1:4).
II. THE REPAIR OF THE TEMPLE PROVIDED FOR.
1. By sacred dues. In ordaining that the temple should be repaired, Joash showed also how the funds for the work were to be obtained. The Chronicler gives prominence to the half-shekel tax, which in the days of Moses was levied for the benefit of the sanctuary (2 Chronicles 24:6, 2 Chronicles 24:9), and there were the other moneys to be paid on occasion of the fulfillment of vows (Le 27:2-8). It is well when religion is not left to be supported by haphazard contributions, but when there is some definite principle of giving—some portion of income which is regularly set apart for the Lord's use. This creates a fund which can be readily drawn upon when any good work requires aid.
2. By free-will offerings. The stated dues were not to be the only source of revenue. There is named also "all the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord." It is expected that religion will touch the heart of a man, and make him willing to part with a portion of his substance for the service of God. If it does not, it is not of much value. On the other hand, it is the heart which is the source of true religious giving. The gifts which come from the hand, not from the heart, do not count for much in Heaven's reckoning. "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
III. THE REPAIR OF THE TEMPLE STILL UNEXECUTED. Years passed on. Joash had now been twenty-three years upon the throne, yet the repairs of the temple had not so much as begun. It seems unaccountable that in so holy a work such apathy should have prevailed. The fact may be attributed:
1. To the inertia of the priesthood. Everything seems at first to have been left to the priests and Levites. They were to go through the land, make proclamation of the king's purpose, and collect the money for the work. In this duty they appear to have been slack. "The Levites," the Chronicler says, "hastened it not" (2 Chronicles 24:5). Large bodies of men are slow to move. Some of the priests and Levites were probably men of no great religious enthusiasm. One can sympathize with them in their shrinking from the task of collecting money. There are few tasks more thankless.
2. To the distrust of the people. The people appear not to have had the requisite confidence in the priests to entrust them with large sums of money. At least the money seems to have come in more freely after Jehoiada made his chest with the hole in the lid of it, than it did before. The distrust of the people was natural, for the priests were in no hurry to lay out the revenues they collected.
3. To the self-interest of a privileged class. The priestly dues would suffer serious diminution during the reign of such a queen as Athaliah. Irregularities would creep in, and the priests and Levites, deprived of their proper income, would feel justified in appropriating primarily to their own support whatever moneys came to hand. Joash's decree had the effect of cutting off these perquisites, and of restoring them to their original use in keeping up the sanctuary. It could not be expected that the classes who were to suffer would be very eager in carrying out this decree. It is never safe to trust a privileged class to carry out measures which tell against its own interests. Average human nature is not so disinterested as to act enthusiastically for the promotion of reforms which injure itself.—J.O.
2 Kings 12:7-16
The temple repairs-a good purpose accomplished.
When so many years had elapsed without anything being done, Joash called the priests to account, and ordered them to take no more of the money of the people for themselves, but to repair the breaches of the house. A new start was made, and this time success was attained. We may ascribe the success to—
I. PRUDENT ARRANGEMENTS. Wise, business-like arrangements have much to do with the success of any undertaking. Those now entered into were under the superintendence of Jehoiada, and afforded:
1. Security against misappropriation. Jehoiada obtained a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it. It was placed beside the altar, on the right side, and all the money that was brought was put therein. There could thus be no suspicion of any real-appropriation of the funds. Every worshipper had the certainty that what he gave would go for the purpose for which it was given.
2. A removal of temptation. The arrangement of the chest was an advantage to the priests as well as to the people. It no longer afforded any temptation to needy individuals among them to retain funds that were passing through their hands. It put the order, as a whole, above suspicion and reproach. It is well not to put needless temptations in any one's way.
3. A convenience for giving. The chest, as it stood there beside the altar, was a permanent depository to which the contributions of the faithful could be brought. The people had not to seek out persons to receive their gifts. They knew, without asking, where to take them. Sound arrangements of this sort, inspiring confidence, minimizing temptations to negligence or dishonesty, and consulting the convenience of the offerers, were admirably adapted to promote the ends aimed at. The example may be attended to with profit in the financial management of churches, charities, missionary societies, etc.
II. WILLING GIVERS. The fact that the work was taken partially out of the hands of the priests, and that the people had now security for their gifts being properly applied, had an immediate effect on the flow of contributions. We find:
1. Liberal gifts brought. It was not long, as we are told, before there was "much money" in the chest. People are seldom as willing to give for religion as they should be, but if a good cause is put before them, if they have the case properly presented, and if they feel secure as to the disposal of their gifts, it is wonderful often how freely liberality flows forth. We must not blame people for illiberality when their backwardness in giving arises from removable, and perhaps justifiable, causes.
2. A strict account kept. This is another feature in the business-like management of the funds which was now introduced, showing what great pains were taken to impress the minds of the people with confidence in the disposal of their money. When the chest was full, the king's scribe and the high priest came up, opened the box, put the money in bags, and made a strict account of the sums. Strictness in pecuniary details may seem a minor matter, but it is really not so. The man who is honest in his pecuniary affairs is likely to be honest all through. Nothing shakes confidence so much as the suspicion of small unfaithfulnesses in money transactions. Instinctively we apply the principle, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" (Luke 16:10, Luke 16:11).
III. DILIGENT WORKERS. The money contributed by the people was applied to hire the services of workers to execute the needed repairs.
1. The workers were many. There were carpenters and builders, stonemasons and hewers, and part of the money was expended also on the purchase of materials. As in this temple-building so in the Christian Church, there is need not only for givers but for workers, and every variety of gift proves to be of service. Some can give who cannot work; others can work who cannot give; others can both give and work. There are needed those with mission talent—the quarrymen and excavators; there are needed those who can educate, or hew and polish the stones when obtained; there are needed the organizers and builders—those whose function it is to put the stones in their places, and build up the holy temple to the Lord.
2. The workers were diligent. They were set on as soon as funds were forthcoming to employ them, and they wrought with good heart till the work was finished. Labor in the kingdom of God should be diligent. The many workers did not work separately, but together, all of them helping one another; and similar combination and co-operation are necessary to overtake the work of Christ.
IV. FAITHFUL OVERSEERS. Another step in the right direction, following up the previous precautions to inspire confidence, was the appointment of men to superintend the work who could be implicitly trusted. It is a noble testimony borne concerning these men who did the part of overseers in the work of the temple, that they did not need to be reckoned with, "for they dealt faithfully."
1. They were faithful in their oversight. They were men of probity and honor, who conscientiously looked after the men set under them, seeing that the work committed to their care was properly done. It is difficult to estimate the value, even in an economical respect, of the higher moral qualities of character. How much loss, suffering, disease, death, not to speak of minor annoyance, is inflicted on mankind through badly inspected, ill-done work? There is a sphere for faithfulness in the discharge of every kind of duty. Carlyle says of Louis XV; "His wide France, look at it from the fixed stars (them- selves not yet infinitude), is no wider than thy narrow brickfield, where thou, too, didst faithfully, or didst unfaithfully It is not thy works, which are all mortal, infinitely little, and the greatest no greater than the least, but only the spirit thou workest in that can have worth or continuance."
2. They were faithful in their money dealings. So perfectly faithful that it was not felt necessary to keep a strict reckoning with them as to their expenditure upon the workmen. No better tribute could be paid to their incorruptible integrity than the trust thus reposed in them. It was only a very high degree of integrity which would warrant it. As a rule, it is wise to keep account even with those whose integrity we do not dispute.
V. RESPECT FOR RIGHTS. It is added that the revenues which properly belonged to the priests, the trespass money and sin money, were not touched for the purpose of the repairs. Neither was the money given for the restoration of the building applied, until the repairs were completed, to purchase new vessels for the sanctuary—bowls of silver, snuffers, trumpets, etc. Probably in connection with the above arrangements for collecting the people's money other steps were taken to put the priests' legitimate income, the tithe dues, etc; on a more satisfactory footing. A regard for justice is thus observable throughout the whole of these dealings. Right is the proper basis to take one's stand on in works of reformation.—J.O.
2 Kings 12:17-21
Dark days for Judah.
The reign of Joash began with bright promise, but ended in gloom and tribulation. It furnishes another instance of the evil consequences of forsaking God.
I. JOASH'S APOSTASY. Of this a fuller account is given in the Book of Chronicles than here, though the statement in 2 Kings 12:2, "Joash did right all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him," already hints at a falling away after Jehoiada's death. From Chronicles we learn the nature of his apostasy.
1. He yielded to bad counsel. His good adviser having died at the extreme age of a hundred and thirty, he listened to the flatteries and seductions of the princes of Judah, whose bent was all towards evil (2 Chronicles 24:17).
2. He revived idolatry. If he did not actually participate in the renewed setting up of idols, he permitted it. Baal-worship, from which in infancy he had suffered so much, again lifted up its head in Jerusalem. For this trespass it is said, "wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 24:18).
3. He shed innocent blood. This declension of Joash was not allowed to go unrebuked. God sent prophets to him to testify to him and warn him, especially Zechariah, the son, or perhaps grandson, of the priest Jehoiada. But so far had the infatuation of Joash gone that he actually permitted this son of his former friend and benefactor to be stoned with stones between the temple and the altar in the court of the Lord's house (2 Chronicles 24:20-22; cf. Matthew 23:35). This ineffaceable crime completed his ruin. As Zechariah died he had said," The Lord look upon it, and require it" (2 Chronicles 24:22); and God did require it. The Jews had a tradition that, at the capture of Jerusalem, this blood of Zechariah bubbled up from the floor of the temple court, and could not be pacified. Nebusaradan brought rabbis, and slew them on it, still it was not quiet; he brought children, and slew them on it, still it was not quiet; he slew ninety-four thousand on it, yet it was not quiet. The fable illustrates at least the heinousness of the deed.
II. HAZAEL'S INVASION. The instrument employed to chastise Joash and the people for their sins was the redoubtable Hazael. He invaded the laud by the way of Philistia, and reduced it to great distress. We note regarding the invasion:
1. Its resistless character. It was but a very small company of. men that came with Hazael, but they seem to have swept the "very great host" of Judah before them with ease, destroying the princes of the people, who had been ringleaders in wickedness, and sending the spoil on to Damascus (cf. 2 Chronicles 24:24). It is a fatal thing to break faith with God, to apostatize from solemn covenants with him, to provoke him to anger by open wickedness and deeds of blood. The strength of a nation stands not in its mighty men, but in the favor of God, and where that is withdrawn, a handful of armed men will chase a thousand (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25-27; Deuteronomy 28:27-48).
2. The ignominious tribute. What, in so deplorable a case, could Joash do? His princes, so bold in counseling him in courses of sin, were cowards in the field; and Hazael seemed bent on utterly overthrowing him. He had no alternative but to make the best terms he could, and buy the invader off. To furnish the requisite tribute he had to strip both the temple and his own house of all their goodly treasures. He took the hallowed things of his forefathers out of the temple, and the gold that was found in its treasuries; he took also his own gold, and sent everything to Hazael. He, the restorer of the temple, is forced to become the spoiler of the temple. To such depths of ignominy and misery are men led by forsaking the ways of God. Yet nothing seems to avail sinners for warning! They go on as madly in ways of wickedness as if no one had ever tried these paths before them, and found them the ways of death.
III. THE FATAL CONSPIRACY. We have, finally, the account of how Joash met his end by a conspiracy of two of his servants.
1. The origin of the conspiracy. We cannot err in supposing that it had its origin in the seething discontent of the people. They saw the kingdom going to pieces in the hands of an unfaithful king; they saw righteous blood shed; they had suffered severely from the barbarities of invasion. The conspirators do not seem to have plotted any dynastic change. Their act only expressed the bitter hatred with which the person of the king had come to be regarded. How different from the day when the multitude shouted, "God save the king!" And that change had come about solely through Joash's departure from the right ways of God.
2. Its fatal result. The servants, whose names are given in the text, smote him in "the house of Millo" so that he died. Thus Joash fell by the stroke of an assassin, unpitied, unlamented by his people. When the bonds of godliness are loosed, the bonds of fidelity between man and man are loosed too (Hosea 4:1, Hosea 4:2).
3. The dishonor to his body. The crowning ignominy put upon Joash was the refusal of the people to allow him to be buried in the sepulcher of the kings, as Jehoiada had been (2 Chronicles 24:25). This confirms what is said above of the odium in which he was held by his people.—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Kings 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany