The Folly of Forsaking God

17 At that time Hazael king of Syria went up and fought against Gath and took it. But when Hazael set his face to go up against Jerusalem, 18 Jehoash king of Judah took all the sacred gifts that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah his fathers, the kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own sacred gifts, and all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent these to Hazael king of Syria. Then Hazael went away from Jerusalem.

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? 20 His servants arose and made a conspiracy and struck down Joash in the house of Millo, on the way that goes down to Silla. 21 It was Jozacar the son of Shimeath and Jehozabad the son of Shomer, his servants, who struck him down, so that he died. And they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Amaziah his son reigned in his place. 2 Kings 12:17-21 ESV

With the death of Jehoiada the priest, King Jehoash became like a ship without a rudder. His former mentor and father figure had been a stabilizing factor in his life, and his departure left the king directionless and vulnerable to the influence of others. The book of 2 Chronicles tells us that not long after Jehoiada’s death, “the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded him to listen to their advice. They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 24:17-18 NLT). And though God sent prophets who called the nation to repentance, the people refused to listen. And King Jehoash led the way in rejecting the messengers of Yahweh.

God placed His Spirit upon Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, who gave a stinging indictment against the nation.

“This is what God says: Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands and keep yourselves from prospering? You have abandoned the Lord, and now he has abandoned you!” – 2 Chronicles 24:20 NLT

But his words fell on deaf ears and hard hearts. Rather than call the people to repentance, King Jehoash repaid his former mentor, Jehoiada, by having his son stoned to death in the temple courtyard. And as Zechariah died, he cried out, “May the Lord see what they are doing and avenge my death!” (2 Chronicles 24:22 NLT).

And this curse from the lips of God’s dying prophet would come to fruition. God would avenge the death of Zechariah and He would do it through the pagan nation of Syria. For years, the Syrians had been harassing the northern kingdom of Israel. All the while Jehoash had been king in Judah, his counterpart in Israel had been waging an ongoing war against the Syrians. King Jehoahaz had ascended to the throne of his father, Jehu, and had picked up where his father had left off, doing “what was evil in the sight of the Lord and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (2 Kings 13:2 ESV). As a result, God “gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Syria and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael” (2 Kings 13:3 ESV). This continued throughout the reign of King Jehoahaz.

But now, God was going to use the Syrians to punish the rebellious and unrepentant nation of Judah. King Hazael took his campaign of terror further south, moving along the coast of the Mediterranean, and eventually capturing the city of Gath, deep within Judean territory. Then he set sights on Jerusalem. In the spring of the year, Hazael and his army attacked the capital city, “and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus” (2 Chronicles 24:23 ESV). And the chronicler goes on to reveal that this victory was God-ordained.

Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the Lord delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgment on Joash. – 2 Chronicles 24:24 ESV

The attack left Jehoash wounded. And in desperation, the king decided to do whatever had to do to keep Hazael from capturing the city. So, he stripped bare the temple treasury, sending all the sacred items and the gold to Hazael as a form of ransom.

Jehoash king of Judah took all the sacred gifts that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah his fathers, the kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own sacred gifts, and all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent these to Hazael king of Syria. Then Hazael went away from Jerusalem. – 2 Kings 12:18 ESV

Rather than turn to God for help, Jehoash took what belonged to God and used it to buy off the enemy. And his plan seemed to work. Hazael took the treasure and left. But Jehoash’s troubles were far from over. Still suffering from the wounds he had received in the attack on Jerusalem, Jehoash was in a vulnerable state. His treasury was bankrupt and he was a physically broken man. And it seems that some of his officials recognized that Judah’s recent defeat at the hands of the Syrians had something to do with Jehoash’s decision to kill Zechariah. The curse uttered by the dying prophet had come true. So, they decided to eliminate the cause of all their troubles.

…his own officials plotted to kill him for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest. They assassinated him as he lay in bed. – 2 Chronicles 24:25 NLT

The author of 2 Kings even provides us the names of the two conspirators.

The assassins were Jozacar son of Shimeath and Jehozabad son of Shomer—both trusted advisers. – 2 Kings 12:21 NLT

These men would have had easy access to the king. He trusted them. They had become replacements for Jehoiada, providing the king with counsel, and acting as his mentors. But unlike the former priest, these men had no love for Jehoash. They viewed him as a plague upon the nation and determined that his removal might placate God and prevent further judgment. Their actions were the work of God. And it’s interesting to note that these two men were actually foreigners. One was the son of an Ammonite woman, and the other was the son of a Moabite woman. This reference to their birth mothers is significant and it links the events in this chapter all the way back to the book of Genesis.

In chapter 19 of the book of Genesis, there is the account of God’s rescue of Lot and his daughters from the wicked city of Sodom. Lot was the nephew of Abraham who had made a decision to settle in fertile valleys of the Jordan. But it wasn’t long before he “moved his tent as far as Sodom” (Genesis 13:12 ESV). This proved to be a problem, becausethe men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord” (Genesis 13:12 ESV). Eventually, Lot relocated his family inside the walls of the city of Sodom. When God determined to destroy Sodom and its neighboring city of Gomorrah for their wickedness, Abraham convinced God to spare Lot and his daughters. But once they were rescued by the angels of God, Lot’s daughters revealed the negative influence of their time spent in Sodom. Fearful that they will never find husbands, they come up with a plan to get their father drunk and commit incest with him, all under the guise of prolonging their father’s lineage. Their mother was dead and their father had no sons. So, in their minds, this was the only way of preserving the family line. But their sinful decision would produce a less-than-ideal outcome.

…both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their own father. When the older daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Moab. He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Moabites. When the younger daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Ben-ammi. He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Ammonites. – Genesis 19:36 NLT

The Ammonites and Moabites, while distant relatives of the Israelites, were pagan nations that worshiped false gods. And it’s no coincidence that the men who plotted and carried out the assassination of Jehoash had ties to these two nations. God had used the Syrians to inflict judgment upon Judah. Now, He used an Ammonite and a Moabite to bring death to the rebellious and unrepentant Jehoash.

God had preserved and protected Jehoash, allowing him to find sanctuary in the temple and receive instruction from Jehoiada the priest. But when his godly mentor had died, Jehoash was exposed for what he really was – just another king who refused to acknowledge God as the one true Sovereign. Jehoash had started out so well but ended poorly. He had chosen to forsake God and listen to the advice of men. Rather than heed the warnings of God’s prophet, Jehoash had put him to death. And instead of placing his trust in Yahweh, Jehoash had attempted to buy his way out of trouble, using the treasure of God in a failed attempt to escape the judgment of God. And he died trying.

Joash was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. Then his son Amaziah became the next king. – 2 Kings 12:21 NLT

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


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