1 Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family. 2 But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death. 3 And he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athaliah reigned over the land.
4 But in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of the Carites and of the guards, and had them come to him in the house of the Lord. And he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the Lord, and he showed them the king’s son. 5 And he commanded them, “This is the thing that you shall do: one third of you, those who come off duty on the Sabbath and guard the king’s house 6 (another third being at the gate Sur and a third at the gate behind the guards) shall guard the palace. 7 And the two divisions of you, which come on duty in force on the Sabbath and guard the house of the Lord on behalf of the king, 8 shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand. And whoever approaches the ranks is to be put to death. Be with the king when he goes out and when he comes in.”
9 The captains did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they each brought his men who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. 10 And the priest gave to the captains the spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the Lord. 11 And the guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house on behalf of the king. 12 Then he brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!” – 2 Kings 11:1-12 ESV
Meanwhile, back in Judah.
Once again, the author shifts the focus of his narrative back to the southern kingdom. While Jehu had been systematically and brutally eliminating the legacy of Ahab from Israel, a regime change had taken place in Judah as well. While the two nations operated independently of one another, they had developed close ties through intermarriage and military alliances. Ahab and Jezebel had a daughter, Athaliah, who had married King Jehoram of Israel. Her influence over him is readily apparent when you read how God assessed his reign and disclosed the nature of his death.
“…you have been as evil as the kings of Israel. You have led the people of Jerusalem and Judah to worship idols, just as King Ahab did in Israel. And you have even killed your own brothers, men who were better than you. So now the Lord is about to strike you, your people, your children, your wives, and all that is yours with a heavy blow. You yourself will suffer with a severe intestinal disease that will get worse each day until your bowels come out.” – 2 Chronicles 21:13-15 NLT
And when Jehoram ending up dying just as God had predicted, he was replaced by Ahaziah, the son he shared with Athalia. During his reign, Ahaziah maintained a close relationship with his family back in Israel, even making a trip to visit his uncle, King Jehoram, who was recuperating from battle injuries at his summer palace in Jezreel. But the timing of his trip proved both ill-planned and ill-fated. He had arrived in Jezreel at the exact moment when Jehu was launching his coup against the house of Ahab. And his decision to be in Israel at that precise moment proved deadly.
When King Ahaziah of Judah saw what was happening, he fled along the road to Beth-haggan. Jehu rode after him, shouting, “Shoot him, too!” So they shot Ahaziah in his chariot at the Ascent of Gur, near Ibleam. He was able to go on as far as Megiddo, but he died there. His servants took him by chariot to Jerusalem, where they buried him with his ancestors in the City of David. – 2 Kings 9:27-28 NLT
In a single day, Jehu had managed to kill the kings of Israel and Judah, creating an immediate power vacuum in both nations. He would end up filling the void left by King Jehoram in Israel, but the battle for control of Ahaziah’s empty throne would prove more complicated and deadly.
As soon as Athalia received the news that her son had been murdered by Jehu, she launched a brutal campaign to secure the crown for herself. Rather than mourn the death of her son, “she arose and destroyed all the royal family” (2 Kings 11:1 ESV). She callously eliminated any and all competition. And thanks to her husband’s sins against Yahweh, her work had been made much easier. As punishment for Jehoram’s ungodly leadership, God had brought judgment against Judah in the form of enemy raiding parties.
Then the Lord stirred up the Philistines and the Arabs, who lived near the Ethiopians, to attack Jehoram. They marched against Judah, broke down its defenses, and carried away everything of value in the royal palace, including the king’s sons and his wives. Only his youngest son, Ahaziah, was spared. – 2 Chronicles 21:16-17 NLT
Now, with Ahaziah out of the picture, Athaliah had few competitors for the throne. But she still went out of her way to eliminate anyone who might jeopardize her plan to rule over Judah. In doing so, Athaliah was going against the revealed will of God. He had made a covenant commitment to David that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever.
“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
“And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16 ESV
Athaliah was not a descendant of David, but she was not about to let that minor detail stand in her way. So, she set out to clear her path to power by systematically wiping out anyone who might claim to be the rightful heir to David’s throne.
Having successfully eliminated the competition, Athaliah became the self-appointed queen of Judah, and she would hold that title for the next six years. But little did she know that all the while she sat on the throne, the true king of Judah was being protected in the house of God. During her ambitious and murderous power-grab, she had inadvertently overlooked one minor detail: A young boy named Joash. He was the son of King Ahaziah and, therefore, the rightful heir to the throne.
When Athaliah had begun her murderous spree, her step-daughter, Jehosheba, had risked her life by protecting Joash, the infant son of Ahaziah. The book of 2 Chronicles provides us with a detailed description of her brave rescue attempt.
Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Ahaziah’s infant son, Joash, and stole him away from among the rest of the king’s children, who were about to be killed. She put Joash and his nurse in a bedroom. In this way, Jehosheba, wife of Jehoiada the priest and sister of Ahaziah, hid the child so that Athaliah could not murder him. – 2 Chronicles 22:11 NLT
Don’t miss the sovereign hand of God in all of this. It just so happens that Jehosheba was not only the daughter of the king and, therefore, the half-sister of Joash, but she was also the wife of Jehoiada the priest. These relationships were God-ordained and providentially established to not only keep Joash alive but to preserve the promise that God had made to David years earlier. After initially hiding Joash in a room within the palace, Jehosheba and her husband, Jehoiada, moved him to the temple. And for the next six years, the young boy would find protection in the house of God. Yahweh, the God of David, was preserving the seed of David so that He might fulfill the promise He had made to David. And what makes this so significant is that God was preserving David’s seed so that He might one day send His own Son as the ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. The psalmist writes, “The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne’” ( Psalm 132:11 ESV). And the apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus was the Son whom God had in mind when He made that promise to David.
God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 1:2-4 NLT
But had Jehosheba not been there to preserve the life of her brother, the line of David would have come to an abrupt end. And had her husband not been Jehoiada the priest, the young boy would not have been given sanctuary in the temple of God. All of this was the handiwork of God Almighty, who was operating behind the scenes in order to preserve and protect His covenant promise. Nothing was going to stand in the way of God’s long-term redemptive plan for the people of Israel and the nations of the world – including Athaliah.
And in time, Athaliah’s 15-minutes of fame came to an end. When Joash reached the age of seven, Jehoiada the priest called for the captains of the Carites, who served as royal bodyguards. He brought them into the temple and introduced them to Joash, the rightful heir to the throne. This would have been shocking news to these men. None of them would have had any idea that Joash was alive. Jehoiada’s decision to use the temple as the venue for revealing this exciting news was intended to remind these men that God was at work. He had them swear an oath before God that they would protect the new king at all costs, and they agreed. Then, as if to solidify their commitment, he equipped these men with “spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the Lord” ( 2 Kings 11:10 ESV). This was intended as a not-so-subtle reminder that Joash was a descendant of the great king, David, and the rightful heir to the throne of Judah.
Having instigated plans to provide protection for Joash, Jehoiada took the next steps to make inaugurate the new king of Judah.
Then he brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!” – 2 Kings 11:12 ESV
After six years under the reign of Athaliah, the fate of Judah was about to take a dramatic turn. From the holy temple of God, a cry would go out, declaring that Judah had a new king. The sovereign plan of God was alive and well, and it was about to be revealed in the life of a seven-year-old boy named Joash. And it’s interesting to note that Joash’s name means, “given by the Lord.” He would be a gracious gift from God Almighty, providing immediate hope for the people of Judah and a link to the future promise of the Messiah.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson