2 Kings 11: Queen Athaliah
Joash was made king in Jerusalem when he was a little boy seven years old. His grandmother Athaliah had been queen. She was a very bad queen and had killed the children of the king's family who might be made king in her place. But an aunt who was wife of the priest Jehoiada (2 Chron. 22:11) saved little Joash and kept him in hiding in the temple so that he was not killed. Now after six years, the good priest Jehoiada planned to make Joash king. It was on a Sabbath day, when the guards who kept the temple were changed. He kept the old guard when the new guard came in, so that the guard was double in strength. He placed the men to protect the temple from any attack from the palace in case Queen Athaliah or her men should try to break in. Others he drew up in a line to protect the space before the temple. Then Jehoiada brought out the little boy Joash and set him by a pillar before the temple where the kings were usually crowned. There he crowned him king and put a copy of the Lord’s law in his hand. Trumpets were blown, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, “God save the king!” The Queen Athaliah heard the noise, and coming into the temple she saw what it meant. The guards followed her and killed her outside the temple courts. So little Joash was made king, and the good priest Jehoiada was his teacher and taught him how to serve the Lord and to be a good king.
You remember the worship of Baal which the evil Queen Jezebel, wife of Ahab, supported in the northern kingdom, which was so bravely opposed by Elijah and Elisha. You remember how Jehu, having been anointed king, came driving furiously up from the Jordan to Jezreel and killed the two kings, Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah, who went out from Jezreel in their chariots to meet him. (2 Kings 9:16-29) This Ahaziah was the one whose death we read of in the first verse of our chapter. We should know, too, that the wicked Athaliah was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and a promoter of the same Baal worship. When Ahaziah was killed, this wicked queen killed the children of the royal family, so that there would be no one to claim the kingdom and she could rule herself; and she did rule over the land for six years.
But something had been done which Athaliah did not know of: when the other children were killed, one little boy, a baby not more than a year old, was saved. His name was Joash. At first, he was hidden with his nurse in the “bedchamber,” which seems to mean a room where beds were stored away. Afterward “he was with her hid in the house of the Lord six years.” The temple that Solomon built was still standing. There were rooms connected with it besides the holy chambers where the ark and lamp and table were. Jehoiada was the priest in those days, in charge of the temple, and he was the faithful friend and protector of the little Joash.
The child was now seven years old and he was to be brought out of his hiding-place and crowned king. It was the faithful priest Jehoiada who arranged all this, and did everything to protect Joash from harm from Athaliah or any of those who took her part. Read how he called the captains of the temple guard together and told them his purpose and what they must do. The time chosen was the Sabbath day, when it seems the guard was changed. The men who were going off duty were kept, as the new men came on, and so a double force was at hand to protect the little king.
Three companies of men were to watch the palace and its gates, to guard against any attack that might be made by the queen or her soldiers. “So shall ye keep the watch of the house (the palace), that it (the guard protecting Joash) be not broken down.” Besides the companies that watched the palace from which danger might be most expected, two other companies were to stand about Joash before the temple. Jehoiada gave King David's spears and shields from the temple to the men. These may have been spears and shields which David had taken from conquered people and brought to the temple as a sort of offering to the Lord.
Recall the porch across the east front of the building, and the laver and altar of burnt offering and the two bronze pillars of beautiful work in the court before the temple door. The lines of armed men reached across before the altar and to the corner of the temple building on either side, making safe the space before the temple door into which Joash was led out. He stood by the pillar “as the manner was.” He stood in the place where the kings usually stood to be crowned, perhaps by one of the two bronze pillars. The priest Jehoiada put the crown on the head of Joash, and gave him the Testimony, and he was anointed. The Testimony is a name often given to the commandments, and it would seem here to mean a scroll with the law of Moses or some part of the law written upon it. It would be a sign that the king would be guided in his ruling by the Lord's law. (See Deut. 17: 14-20.)
There was blowing of trumpets and clapping of hands, and the people shouted, “Live the king!” Remember when Solomon was anointed how they blew the trumpet, and the people rejoiced with music and shouting, so that the city rang again. (1 Kings 1:40, 45) Athaliah heard the noise and came into the temple courts. She saw the young king standing by the pillar and knew the meaning of it all. They let her escape from the temple court so that she might not be killed on holy ground, but she was slain beside the palace. Solemn promises were made that the king and people would be faithful to the Lord and to each other. The temple and images of Baal were destroyed, and Joash was set on the throne of the kings. “All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet.” Read the chapter.
The one who saved Joash was his father's sister, and wife of the priest Jehoiada. (2 Chron. 22:11) The wickedness of Athaliah reminds you of the wickedness of her mother Jezebel. In connection with the Testimony given to the king (verse 12), read Deut. 17:14-20. The death of Athaliah reminds you of the death of her mother Jezebel. (2 Kings 9:30-37) The covenant (verse 17) was between the king and people and the Lord, and between the people and the king.
1. Who was Jezebel? Who was Athaliah?
2. What did Athaliah do in her cruelty and ambition? Of what does this remind you in the Gospel story?
3. How was Joash saved? Where did he live for seven years? Who was Jehoiada?
4. Tell me how Joash was made king.
The story of Athaliah reminds us how cruel selfishness is, hating, and if it can, destroying whatever stands in the way of its own pleasure or ambition. (N. 71) Athaliah was a daughter of Jezebel and, like her, followed the worship of Baal. She must represent something of that self-love and enjoyment in evil pleasure which Jezebel represents. The queen of Israel stands especially for that evil delight in its power of perverting the understanding, and the queen of Judah for that delight taking possession of the will and crowding out and destroying all motives and all principles of life that would oppose the evil pleasure. This is represented especially by Athaliah's destroying the children who might disturb her power. (R. 132; E. 159, 160)
The little child Joash was saved and was hidden in the house of the Lord. So the Lord saves innocent and holy things of childhood and hides them near to Himself in the secret chambers of the soul, and, all unconsciously to us, protects them while selfish and evil things are active. By and by, it may be possible to bring forth the innocence from its hiding-place and make it a power in the life. The seven years that Joash was hidden in the temple suggest the peaceful period of childhood's innocence, and also the full and perfect protection which the Lord gives to the things of childhood in us all, until they can be brought out into the life. (A . 571, 5135)
The men who guarded Joash were armed with King David's spears and shields. Our David is the Lord, and David's spears and shields are the Divine truths of the Lord's Word which forbid evil and protect us from it. Childlike qualities, when they come out into the life from the secret chambers where the Lord and the angels have kept them safe, need these spears and shields of King David to protect them. They need teachings from the Lord's Word in regard to what is true and right, and they need a rational understanding of true principles of life to give them power in resisting evil and in leading the life into ways of happiness and peace. Every child that is crowned king needs the protection of King David's spears and shields. (Ps. 91:4; E. 205, 283, 734)