Mass Murder – A Historical Background to a very confusing historical text – Friday, 11th week in ordinary time – 2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18 and 20
The united Kingdom of Israel divided after the death of Solomon (931 BC). The ten northern tribes follow King Jeroboam into idolatry. He is succeeded by 18 wicked kings, the last being Hoshea. It was in his reign, in 722 BC, the Assyrians captured and ultimately brought about the end of the Northern Kingdom. As far as the Southern Kingdom (the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah), they followed King Rehoboam who was succeeded by 11 bad kings and 8 good kings.
It is through this line of succession that we find our character, Queen Athaliah of today’s narrative. After King Rehoboam (931—913 BC) his son Abijah reigns briefly (912 BC). Abijah is succeeded by his son Asa (911 – 870 BC). Asa is succeeded by his son Jehoshaphat who reigns until 848 BC. Jehoshaphat was a godly king who “did not turn aside from doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (1 Kings. 22:43).
However, Jehoshaphat made one disastrous mistake, he made peace with the wicked king Ahab of the Northern Kingdom and married his son Jehoram to Athaliah the woman in our narrative of today. The results were disasterous. In so doing Jehoshaphat welcomed a poisonous viper into his family and exposed his son to a woman dedicated to doing evil. She pollutes her husband Jehoram and leads him astray from Yahweh.
After Jehoshaphat’s death, his son Jehoram, with Athaliah at his side, becomes king of Judah. Jehoram ruled for only 8 years (until 841 BC) but during this time the sons of Athaliah, “that wicked woman… had presented all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord to the Baals” (2 Chr. 24:7). Where did this idolatry come from? Her parents, Ahab and Jezebel, king and queen of the Northern Kingdom!
We need to pause and explain now the Johoram confusion: In the northern kingdom, King Ahab had a son name Jehoram aka Joram. He is killed by commander Jehu. Commander and later King Jehu also kills King Ahaziah of the southern kingdom who is the son of the southern king who was also was named Jehoram but he is the son of Jehosaphat and the husband of Athaliah. It is their son Ahaziah, that Jehu kills.
So, coming back to where we were – In the northern kingdom Jehu the commander, had killed King Jehoram (also called Joram) the son of Ahab. Jehoram was the king of the northern kingdom. Jehu then went on to execute King Ahaziah of the southern kingdom who at that time reigned just a year as recorded in 2 Kings 9:27-29. Jehu then had all the 70 sons of Ahab killed in the northern kingdom. At this Athaliah, the wife of King Jehoam of the southern kingdom, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel used the occasion of her son’s death to take power for herself.
She acted quickly to destroy all the royal heirs, her own grandchildren (cf. 2 Kings 11:1). With the royal family apparently wiped out, Athaliah took the throne and ruled as queen for six years. However, one of the king’s sons (her grandson) survived and was hidden by his aunt Jehosheba for six years.No character in history, sacred or secular, stands out blacker or more hideous than this daughter-in-law of the godly Jehoshaphat.
Yet Jehosheba, a little-known woman had an important place in God’s plan. Through her courage and ingenuity, she preserved the royal line of David through which the Messiah would come. The blood line of David had come within a hairs whisker of being eliminated. Evil people like Athaliah will begin their work, but God can always raise up a Jehosheba. Though Ahaziah was a bad king who made evil alliances, he was still a descendant of David and the successor of his royal line. For the sake of David, God remembered His promise and spared this one young survivor to the massacre of Athaliah.
In the seventh year the priest Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of the bodyguards and the escorts and brought them into the house of the LORD to him. Jehoiada was a godly man who was concerned with restoring the throne of David to the line of David, and taking it away from Athaliah. Jehoiada the priest chose the Sabbath for the day of the coup because that was the day when the guards changed their shifts, and they could assemble two groups of guards at the temple at the same time without attracting attention.
He made a covenant with the captains of the Carites and of the guards and took an oath from them in the house of the LORD. For six years everyone believed there were no more surviving heirs of David’s royal line, and there was no legitimate ruler to displace the wicked Athaliah. The secret had to be secure, because the king’s son would be immediately killed if his existence were revealed. The captains and bodyguards and escorts must have been shocked by the sight of this six-year-old heir to the throne. One reason Athaliah was able to reign for six years was that no one knew any alternative. Many people live under the reign of Satan because they don’t really know there is a legitimate king ready to take reign in their lives.
The soldiers who engineered the coup were given the weapons which belonged to King David. It was fitting for these soldiers who would set the heir of David’s royal line back on the throne of Judah to use these weapons which had belonged to King David.
First the king’s son had to be revealed. No one could support him and he could not take his rightful throne until he was brought out before the people. Next the king’s son had to be crowned. This was the public and official recognition of him as king. The king’s son had to come with the Word of God.
The new King Joash was now ‘proclaimed’ king and anointed and the people cheered. For the usurper queen mother this was a horrifying sight. For six years she ruled because she believed there were no legitimate claimants to the throne of David. Now she sees that one son of Ahaziah, Joash, her own grandson – escaped her murderous intent.
As a priest, Jehoiada had a great concern for the sanctity and reputation of the temple. Athalia had to be put to death but not in the temple and so she was killed in the place where horses entered the king’s house. Athaliah, the most infamous queen of Judah, died at the hands of her executioners, much as did her mother, Jezebel, queen of Israel.
Now it was time for the restoration of the true faith. The temple of Baal in Jerusalem was destroyed, and appropriately destroyed by the people of the land. They didn’t stop at destroying the building itself; they went on to destroy both the sacred objects dedicated to Baal and to kill Mattan the priest of Baal.