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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 12

 

 

Verses 1-21

The Reign Of Jehoash (Joash) King Of Judah c. 835-796 BC (2 Kings 12:1-21).

As usual the prophetic author has been extremely selective in what material he has used. His concern was with response or otherwise to YHWH, not with general history. Thus after the usual initial summary in which he gave Jehoash qualified approvalwhile Jehoiada was still alive(as so often he does not explain the qualification but leaves us to make what we an of the hint), he first explained the way in which the Temple was restored after its years of neglect and mistreatment by Jehoram, Ahaziah and Athaliah, and went on to indicate how later Jehoash split with the priests (presumably once Jehoiada’s influence had declined), and took over the arrangements for the maintenance of the Temple. He then finished off with a description of how the accumulated wealth of Judah finally passed into foreign hands, and how Jehoash was assassinated. We are left to draw the conclusion that in the later years of his reign Jehoash had made himself liable to God’s judgment.

The denuding of the state of its treasures was a common way in which the author indicated that all was not quite right with what were, in some cases, otherwise to be seen as ‘good’ kings as far as Yahwism was concerned. Compare 2 Kings 11:18 with 2 Kings 14:14; 2 Kings 18:15; 1 Kings 15:18; and see also 2 Kings 16:8; 2 Kings 24:13; 1 Kings 14:6. It is only when we turn to Chronicles that we discover the details of the failures that lay behind what happened to these ‘good’ kings.

Analysis.

a In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Zibiah of Beer-sheba (2 Kings 12:1).

b And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of YHWH all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him. However the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places (2 Kings 12:2-3).

c And Jehoash said to the priests, “All the money of the hallowed things which is brought into the house of YHWH, in current money, the money of the persons for whom each man is rated, and all the money that it comes into any man’s heart to bring into the house of YHWH, let the priests take it to them, every man from his acquaintance, and they shall repair the breaches of the house, wherever any breach shall be found” (2 Kings 12:4).

d But it was so, that in the three and twentieth year of king Jehoash the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house (2 Kings 12:5).

e Then king Jehoash called for Jehoiada the priest, and for the other priests, and said to them, “Why do you not repair the breaches of the house? Now therefore take no more money from your acquaintance, but deliver it for the breaches of the house.” And the priests consented that they should take no more money from the people, nor repair the breaches of the house (2 Kings 12:6).

f But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in its lid, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one comes into the house of YHWH, and the priests who kept the threshold put in it all the money which was brought into the house of YHWH (2 Kings 12:9).

g And it was so, when they saw that there was much money in the chest, that the king’s scribe and the high priest came up, and they put up in bags and counted the money that was found in the house of YHWH (2 Kings 12:10).

h And they gave the money which was weighed out into the hands of those who did the work, who had the oversight of the house of YHWH, and they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders, who wrought on the house of YHWH, and to the masons and the hewers of stone, and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the breaches of the house of YHWH, and for all that was laid out for the house to repair it (2 Kings 12:11-12).

g But there were not made for the house of YHWH cups of silver, snuffers, basins, trumpets, any vessels of gold, or vessels of silver, of the money that was brought into the house of YHWH, for they gave that to those who did the work, and repaired therewith the house of YHWH (2 Kings 12:13-14).

f Moreover they did not make a reckoning with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to give to those who did the work, for they dealt faithfully (2 Kings 12:15).

e The money for the trespass-offerings, and the money for the sin-offerings, was not brought into the house of YHWH. It was the priests (2 Kings 12:16).

d Then Hazael king of Aram went up, and fought against Gath, and took it, and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem (2 Kings 12:17).

c And Jehoash king of Judah took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold which was found in the treasures of the house of YHWH, and of the king’s house, and sent it to Hazael king of Aram, and he went away from Jerusalem (2 Kings 12:18).

b Now the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? (2 Kings 12:19).

a And his servants arose, and made a conspiracy, and smote Joash at the house of Millo, on the way which goes down to Silla. For Jozacar the son of Shimeath, and Jehozabad the son of Shomer, his servants, smote him, and he died, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Amaziah his son reigned instead of him. (2 Kings 12:20-21).

Note that in ‘a’ we are told about Jehoash’s reign and its commencement, and in the parallel of its cessation. In ‘b’ we learn of Jehoash’s behaviour and in the parallel are referred for further details to the annals of the kings of Judah. In ‘c’ all the hallowed things are brought into YHWH’s house and wealth built up there, and in the parallel YHWH’s house is denuded of its hallowed things and of its wealth. In ‘d’ there were still breaches in the house of YHWH, and in the parallel Hazael sets his face to breach the walls of Jerusalem. In ‘e’ the priests were to take no more money from either their fellow-priests or the people, and in the parallel the money for the trespass and sin offerings was for the priests. In ‘f’ money was brought into the house of YHWH, and in the parallel that money was handed out to faithful men who did the work. In ‘g’ when sufficient money had been accumulated it was counted and bagged, and in the parallel it was not used for any purpose other than the repairing of the house of YHWH. Centrally in ‘h’ the money was paid out to those who repaired the breaches in the house of YHWH.

2 Kings 12:1

‘In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Zibiah of Beer-sheba.’

Jehoash (also called Joash) began to reign over in the seventh year of Jehu. Had it been reckoned as was customary in Judah that would have been six years (excluding the accession year). Thus Jehoash, being seven years old, was born before Jehu came to the throne. Jehoash then reigned for forty years, and yet we are told little about his reign. The prophetic history was only interested in the activity which demonstrated his attitude and behaviour with regard to YHWH. It is a reminder to us that that is also what God is concerned about with us. Forty years slipped by and in the end he had accomplished little that according to the prophetic author was worth recording. Will it be the same with us?

The name of the Queen Mother was Zibiah (gazelle) of Beersheba, a marriage which had strengthened the previous kings’ hold over the Negeb through which there were important trade routes.

2 Kings 12:2

‘And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of YHWH all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him.’

Approval for Jehoash is qualified. The prophetic author often gives us a disquietening hint and then leaves us to work it out. (He did it regularly in the case of Solomon). In this case it was that he did right in the eyes of YHWHall the while that Jehoiada was instructing him. This hint is expanded on when he gives details of the judgments that fell on Jehoash towards the end of his reign. We are left to gather that once Jehoiada’s influence had been removed Jehoash was unfaithful to YHWH (something confirmed in 2 Chronicles 24).

2 Kings 12:3

‘However the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places.’

However, even in the best days there was still a failing, for no great effort was made to remove the many high places where the people themselves sacrificed and offered incense. It was a natural but dangerous procedure for the people who lived at some distance from the Temple or other official high place, to make use of the ancient sanctuaries which had been set up from of yore in the hills for the worship of the ancient gods. They felt that they had a certain sanctity, and using such sanctuaries gave them an opportunity to personally express their faith. In many cases they were genuinely seeking to worship YHWH, but using the old sanctuaries was dangerous, both because they contained symbols of the old gods which could easily then be incorporated into their worship (the pillars and the Asherah poles/images), and also because they then absorbed the ideas associated with them, ideas which had already been the ruin of Israel. It was so easy to think of Baal (meaning ‘lord’) in terms of YHWH. (See Hosea 2:16).

2 Kings 12:4-5

‘And Jehoash said to the priests, “All the money of the hallowed things which is brought into the house of YHWH, in current money, the money of the persons for whom each man is rated, and all the money that it comes into any man’s heart to bring into the house of YHWH, let the priests take it to them, every man from his acquaintance, and they shall repair the breaches of the house, wherever any breach shall be found.” ’

We are not told at what stage in his reign Jehoash took an interest in the repair of the Temple and decided that it had to be borne by the people rather than by the royal treasury. The Temple had been allowed to fall to some extent into disrepair by Jehoram, Ahaziah and Athaliah even though the first two had, as was customary, laid up treasures in it. They had been more interested in the prosperity and welfare of the temple of Baal, and had stripped the Temple in order to embellish Baal’s temple (2 Chronicles 24:7). And it was only too easy for even the most orthodox priests of YHWH to feel the sanctity of the ancient building and thus be hesitant about ‘modernising’ it. As 2 Kings 11:6 speaks of the twenty third year of his reign we probably have to think in terms of half way through his reign when he would still only be around twenty eight.

So Jehoash decided that something definitely had to be done about the Temple, but not from the royal treasury. It was the general custom among kings of those days to maintain the temples of their gods, and the Temple in Jerusalem was to some extent the king’s chapel (he had his own private way into it), so that this was unusual. We may well see this as the first sign of his spiritual decline. He thus commanded that the priests be given the funds pouring into the Temple from the ‘holy offerings’. These included anything ‘devoted’ to YHWH, moneys collected from the people for the specific purpose of repairing the Temple (1 Chronicles 24:5-6) through the possibly previously neglected yearly poll tax (Exodus 30:11-16), the votive offerings paid according to age and sex (Leviticus 37), and the freewill and thanksgiving offerings. The aim was for these to be used to finance the repairing of the breaches in the Temple.

Although the term ‘money’ is used in translations, and has been used here, it should be recognised that this term is not strictly correct. At this time coins had not been invented, and payments were made in gold and silver and by barter. Thus ‘current money’ does not mean ‘current coin’ for there was none. Rather it refers to gifts of silver, gold, bronze, etc. brought in at the current time.

‘Let the priests take it to them, every man from his acquaintance (or business assessor).’ The idea here is that the priests had overall responsibility for the moneys, and were also to use it for repairing the building. It was thus to be passed to priests by priests. Alternately, and more probably, the word for ‘acquaintance’ (makkaro) may be translated ‘business assessor’ on the basis of the Akkadian makaru. Compare how the mkrm are listed at Ugarit along with the priests and other temple personnel. Their main continuing responsibility in the Temple was probably the assessing of the value of sacrificial animals and various offerings.

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.’

But in the twenty third year of his reign it came to Jehoash’s attention that the Temple was still not being properly maintained, and that there were still ‘breaches in the house’. The failure may have been because of their reverence for the building as it was (they may have considered that they had done what repairs were strictly necessary and that to do more would desecrate the Temple), or it may have been because they considered their ritual duties more important than repairing even an old and revered building, or it may have been simply due to negligence or ignorance, or even to embezzlement. Whichever way it was they were called to account.

2 Kings 12:7

‘Then king Jehoash called for Jehoiada the priest, and for the other priests, and said to them, “Why do you not repair the breaches of the house? Now therefore take no more money from your acquaintance, but deliver it for the breaches of the house.” ’

Jehoash therefore called to him ‘the Priest’ Jehoiada, and the other priests and asked them why they had not seen to the proper repair of the Temple. Then he commanded that the priests were no longer to take money from Temple funds in order to repair the Temple, but should deliver it to those who would see to it that the work was done properly (appointed by the palace).

2 Kings 12:8

‘And the priests consented that they should take no more money from the people, nor repair the breaches of the house.’

This was agreed on by the priests who consented to the fact that they should no more take funds from the people, nor be responsible for repairing the Temple building.

2 Kings 12:9

‘But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in its lid, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one comes into the house of YHWH, and the priests who kept the threshold put in it all the money which was brought into the house of YHWH.’

Then Jehoiada made a large collection chest, and bored a hole in its lid, so that any ‘moneys’ being brought to the house of YHWH by the Levites on their annual collection of the poll tax, and any other ‘monetary’ gifts or payments by people paying their poll tax at the Temple, could be put into it. And ‘the priests who kept the threshold’ (see 2 Chronicles 24:8) ensured that all the funds accumulated were put into the chest. This collection chest was seemingly placed in the court of the Temple near the entrance but on the right hand side of the altar. (‘Beside’ can vary in meaning depending on the context and does not require close proximity. Consider its use for example in Judges 19:14 (‘by Gibeah’), 1 Samuel 5:2 (‘by Dagon’ where there was room for Dagon to fall before the Ark); 1 Samuel 20:41 (‘towards the south’); 1 Kings 1:9, (a stone ‘by en-Rogel’); 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 21:1 (a vineyard ‘hard by the palace of Ahab’). In none of these cases does it mean literally ‘beside’).

‘The priests who guarded the threshold.’ These were three in number (2 Kings 25:18) and were important Temple personnel. See Jeremiah 52:24 where they are mentioned along with the chief priest and the second priest. Their responsibility was to ensure non-intrusion into the Temple by unauthorised people, e.g. foreigners, ‘unclean’ people, etc.

2 Kings 12:10

‘And it was so, when they saw that there was much money in the chest, that the king’s scribe and the high priest came up, and they bagged (literally ‘wrapped’ or ‘poured out’) and counted the money that was found in the house of YHWH.’

Once the offerings in the chest had accumulated sufficiently, and they saw how much there was in the chest, the king’s scribe and the high priest came up and put it in bags and assessed the silver that had been put in the chest and was thus ‘found in the house of YHWH’. Alternately it may signify that they turned it into ingots (poured it out) and assessed it.

There is a rare mention here of ‘the Priest’ as ‘the high priest’. But it was necessary in order to parallel ‘the king’s scribe’, so that there could be no doubt as to who was in mind (the leading priest), and the title also appears in Numbers 35:25; Numbers 35:28 where again it was required so that there should be no doubt that ‘the Priest’ i.e. the primary priest, was meant. There is no reason for doubting its use at an early stage because it was also a title for the leading priest at Ugarit. Indeed most nations had their ‘high priest’.

2 Kings 12:11-12

‘And they gave the money which was weighed out into the hands of those who did the work, who had the oversight of the house of YHWH, and they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders, who wrought on the house of YHWH, and to the masons and the hewers of stone, and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the breaches of the house of YHWH, and for all that was laid out for the house to repair it.’

The ‘money’ was then given to those who oversaw the work who accordingly paid the skilled workmen who worked on the house of YHWH and also bought any necessary materials. Notice that it was ‘weighed out’. It was not in coinage. The skilled workmen included carpenters, builders, masons and stone-workers.

2 Kings 12:13-14

‘But there were not made for the house of YHWH cups of silver, snuffers, basins, trumpets, any vessels of gold, or vessels of silver, of the money that was brought into the house of YHWH, for they gave that to those who did the work, and repaired therewith the house of YHWH.’

The ‘money’ was all used for building and repair work. None was used to make the required accessories required in the Temple such as the silver cups, the snuffers, the basins, the trumpets, and the vessels of gold and silver. It was used strictly for its correct purpose.

2 Kings 12:15

‘Moreover they did not make a reckoning with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to give to those who did the work, for they dealt faithfully.’

Nor were the overseers required to make a reckoning, because it was recognised that they dealt honestly and fairly. This may be intended to contrast with how the priests had previously acted, but not necessarily. It may just have been a commendation of the overseers.

2 Kings 12:16

The money for the guilt-offerings, and the money for the sin-offerings, was not brought into the house of YHWH. It was the priests.’

‘However, the ‘money’ in respect of guilt offerings and sin offerings was not brought into the house of YHWH and put in the chest. That was for the priests. Offerings equivalent to guilt offerings and sin offerings were also evidenced at Ugarit where there was also a complicated ritual system. The difference lay in their interpretation and application.

For references to the sin offerings see Leviticus 4-5; Micah 6:7. Compare also Exodus 29:14; Exodus 29:36; Exodus 30:10; Exodus 32:30-34; Exodus 34:7-9; regularly in Leviticus and Numbers. For reference to the guilt offerings see Leviticus 5-7; Leviticus 14:13-28; Leviticus 19:21-22; Numbers 5:7-8; Numbers 6:12; Numbers 18:9; Isaiah 53:10 and compare 1 Samuel 6:3-4; 1 Samuel 6:8; 1 Samuel 6:17. The latter had mainly in mind cases where restitution was possible (see Leviticus 5).

So the work went on and the Temple was repaired and then constantly maintained. Jehoram’s reign seemed to be providing a bright spot in Judah’s history. But, alas, once Jehoiada was removed from having direct influence over him Jehoash appears to have fallen into evil ways (see 2 Chronicles 22:10 to 2 Chronicles 24:27) with the result that judgments came on him. The prophetic author does not bring out the detail. He expects us to recognise that something was wrong when he mentions these judgments. The first judgment was the invasion by Hazael, king of Aram, which caused all the treasures of Judah to vanish into the coffers of Aram, and the second was Jehoash’s assassination.

2 Kings 12:17

‘Then Hazael king of Aram went up, and fought against Gath, and took it, and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem.’

We have already come across Hazael’s depredations on Israel. But he looked wider than that and also raided Philistia, where he besieged Gath and took it. His aim was possibly to secure the trade routes so important to Aram, and as always to obtain booty. Then he decided that his victorious army should invade Jerusalem. This was ‘the city which God had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put His Name there, i.e. as His prime Sanctuary’, and what, of course, Jehoash should have done was seek to YHWH for deliverance. But instead of that he bought Hazael off. Such was his spiritual deterioration.

2 Kings 12:18

‘And Jehoash king of Judah took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold which was found in the treasures of the house of YHWH, and of the king’s house, and sent it to Hazael king of Aram, and he went away from Jerusalem.’

He did what some of his ancestors had done before him. He took all the treasures accumulated in Judah, both the hallowed things and the gold stored in the Temple and the treasures and hallowed things in his own palace and store rooms, and sent them to Hazael in return for immunity from invasion. The denuding of the state of its treasures was a common way in which the prophetic author indicated that all was not quite right with what were, in some cases, otherwise to be seen as ‘good’ kings as far as Yahwism was concerned. Compare 2 Kings 11:18 with 2 Kings 14:14; 2 Kings 18:15; 1 Kings 15:18. See also 2 Kings 16:8; 2 Kings 24:13; 1 Kings 14:6 where it happened to ‘bad kings’. It is only when we turn to Chronicles that we discover the details of the failures that lay behind what happened to these ‘good’ kings. The author of Kings expects us to take the hint, without spelling it out.

‘All the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated.’ In the case of Jehoshaphat they had been dedicated to YHWH, but in the cases of Jehoram and Ahaziah they may have been dedicated to Baal, although political expediency may have required some to be deposited in the Temple. We should note that the emphasis is not on the loss of the Temple treasures as such, but on the loss of all the treasures of Judah.

2 Kings 12:19

‘Now the rest of the acts of Joash, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’

Having dealt with the primary religious aspects of his reign the prophetic author now refers us for general details to the official annals of the kings of Judah. He was not interested in history for its own sake.

2 Kings 12:20-21

‘And his servants arose, and made a conspiracy, and smote Joash at the house of Millo, on the way which goes down to Silla. For Jozacar the son of Shimeath, and Jehozabad the son of Shomer, his servants, smote him, and he died, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Amaziah his son reigned instead of him.’

But YHWH’s final anger against Jehoash (Joash) was revealed in that he allowed him to be assassinated. Some of those who served him entered into a conspiracy against him, and the two assassins, Jozacar and Jehozabad, slew him. This took place while he was in his bed (2 Chronicles 24:25) at the house of Millo, on the way which goes down to Shur. Again the prophetic author expects us to gather that he had offended YHWH. In context this was because he had not looked to YHWH rather than to bribes for deliverance when Hazael threatened Jerusalem. But Chronicles adds the extra feature that Jehoash had arranged for the slaying of Zechariah, the son of his mentor Jehoiada, while he was protesting and prophesying in the Temple at the deterioration in the obedience of the people to YHWH (2 Chronicles 24:19-22).

‘The house of Millo, on the way which goes down to Silla.’ This is unidentified but was probably a garrison which he was visiting and sleeping at to his cost. The fact that it happened in such a way that he was replaced by his son, suggests widespread feeling against him. He was buried ‘with his fathers in the city of David’, but not in the royal tomb (2 Chronicles 24:25), and was replaced by his son Amaziah. The important thing as a member of the Davidic house was to be buried in the city of David.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Kings 12:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-kings-12.html. 2013.

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
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