the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Hebrews Athalyah, עֲתִלְיָה . 2 Kings 11:1; 2 Kings 11:3; 2 Kings 11:13-14; 1 Chronicles 8:26; 2 Chronicles 22:12; Ezra 8:17; in the prolonged form Athalya'hu, עֲתִלְיָהוּ . 2 Kings 8:26; 2 Kings 11:2; 2 Kings 11:20; 2 Chronicles 22:2; 2 Chronicles 22:10-11; 2 Chronicles 23:12-13; 2 Chronicles 23:21; 2 Chronicles 24:7; afflicted by Jehovah), the name of two men and one woman.
1. (Sept. Γοθολία, and so Josephus, Ant. 9, 7, 1.) The daughter of Ahab, king of Israel, doubtless by his idolatrous wife Jezebel. She is also called the daughter of Omri (2 Chronicles 22:2), who was the father of Ahab; but by a comparison of texts it would appear that she is so called only as being his granddaughter. Athaliah became the wife of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. This marriage may fairly be considered the act of the parents; and it is one of the few stains upon the character of the good Jehoshaphat that he was so ready, if not anxious, to connect himself with the idolatrous house of Ahab. Had he not married the heir of his crown to Athaliah, many evils and much bloodshed might have been spared to the royal family and to the kingdom. When Jehoram came to the throne, he, as might be expected, "walked in the ways of the house of Ahab," which the sacred writer obviously attributes to this marriage by adding, "for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife" (2 Chronicles 21:6). Jehoram died (B.C. 884) of wounds received in a war with the Syrians into which his wife's counsel had led him, and was succeeded by his youngest son Ahaziah, who reigned but one year, and whose death arose from his being, by blood and by circumstances, involved in the doom of Ahab's house. (See AHAZIAH).
Before this Athaliah had acquired much influence in public affairs (comp. 1 Kings 10:1; Proverbs 21:1), and had used that influence for evil; and when the tidings of her son's untimely death reached Jerusalem, she resolved to seat herself upon the throne of David at whatever cost (B.C. 883), availing herself probably of her position as king's mother, (See ASA), to carry out her design. Most likely she exercised the regal functions during Ahaziah's absence at Jezreel (2 Kings 9), and resolved to retain her power, especially after seeing the danger to which she was exposed by the overthrow of the house of Omri, and of Baal- worship in Samaria. It was not unusual in those days for women in the East to attain a prominent position, their present degradation being the result of Mahommedanism. Miriam, Deborah, Abigail, are instances from the Bible, and Dido was not far removed from Athaliah, either in birthplace or date, if Carthage was founded B.C. 861 (Josephus, c. Apion. 1, 18). In order to remove all rivals, Athaliah caused all the male branches of the royal family to be massacred (2 Kings 11:1); and by thus shedding the blood of her own grandchildren, she undesignedly became the instrument of giving completion to the doom on her father's house, which Jehu had partially accomplished. From the slaughter of the royal house one infant named Joash, the youngest son of Ahaziah, was rescued by his aunt Jehosheba, daughter of Jehoram (probably by another wife than Athaliah), who had married Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 22:11), the high-priest (2 Chronicles 24:6). The child, under Jehoiada's care, was concealed within the walls of the Temple, and there brought up so secretly that his existence was unsuspected by Athaliah. But in the seventh year (B.C. 877) of her bloodstained and evil reign, Jehoiada thought it time to produce the lawful king to the people, trusting to their zeal for the worship of God, and loyalty to the house of David, which had been so strenuously called out by Asa and Jehoshaphat. After communicating his design to five "captains of hundreds," whose names are given in 2 Chronicles 23:1, and securing the co-operation of the Levites and chief men in the country-towns in case of necessity, he brought the young Joash into the Temple to receive the allegiance of the soldiers of the guard.
It was customary on the Sabbath for a third part of them to do duty at the palace, while two thirds restrained the crowd of visitors and worshippers who thronged the Temple on that day, by occupying the gate of Sur (סוּר, 1 Kings 11:6, called of the foundation, יְסוֹד, 2 Chronicles 23:5, which Gerlach, in loco, considers the right reading in Kings also), and the gate "behind the guard" (Vulg. porta uce est post habitaculum scutariorum), which seem to have been the N. and S. entrances into the Temple, according to Ewald's description of it (Geschichte,3, 306-7). On the day fixed for the outbreak there was to be no change in the arrangement at the palace, lest Athaliah, who did not worship in the Temple, should form any suspicions from missing her usual guard, but the latter two thirds were to protect the king's person by forming a long and closely-serried line across the Temple, and killing any one who should approach within certain limits. They were also furnished with David's spears and shields, that the work of restoring his descendant might be associated with his own sacred weapons. When the guard had taken up their position, the young prince was anointed, crowned, and presented with the Testimony or Law, and Athaliah was first roused to a sense of her danger by the shouts and music which accompanied the inauguration of her grandson. She hurried into the Temple, but found Joash already standing "by a pillar," or more properly on it, i.e. on the tribunal or throne apparently raised on a massive column or cluster of columns, which the king occupied when he attended the service on solemn occasions. The phrase in the original is עִלאּעִמּוּד, rendered ἐπί τοῦ στύλου by the Sept., and super tribunal in the Vulgate, while Gesenius gives for the substantive a stage or pulpit. (Comp. 2 Kings 23:3, and Ezekiel 46:2.) She arrived, however, only to behold the young Joash standing as a crowned king by the pillar of inauguration, and acknowledged as sovereign by the acclamations of the assembled multitude. Her cries of "Treason!" failed to excite any movement in her favor, and Jehoiada, the high-priest, who had organized this bold and successful attempt, without allowing time for pause, ordered the Levitical guards to remove her from the sacred precincts to instant death (2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 21:6; 2 Chronicles 22:10-12; 2 Chronicles 23). The Tyrians afterward avenged her death (Joel 2). The only other recorded victim of this happy and almost bloodless revolution was Mattan, the priest of Baal. (On its plan, see De Wette, Beiti Aige, p. 95 sq.; Gramberg, Chron. p. 135 sq.; Keil, Chron. p. 361 sq.; Ewald, Geschichte, 3, 574 sq. The latter words of 2 Kings 11:6, in our version, "that it be not broken down," are probably wrong: Ewald translates "according to custom;" Gesenius gives in his Lexicon "a keeping off.") In modern times the history of Athaliah has been illustrated by the music of Handel and of Mendelssohn, and the stately declamation of Racine.
2. (Sept. Γοθολίας v. r. Γοθολία .) One of the "sons" of Jeroham and chieftains of the tribe of Benjamin, resident at Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 8:27). B.C. apparently 536.
3. (Sept. Ἀθελία v. r. Ἀθλία ) The father of Jeshaiah, which latter was one of the "sons" of Elam that returned with seventy dependents from Babylon under Ezra (Ezra 8:7). B.C. ante 459.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Athaliah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​a/athaliah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.