(2 Kings 11, 12; 2 Chron. 22:10—24:27.)
Contemporary Prophet, Zechariah, son of Jehoiada.
“It is He that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David His servant from the hurtful sword.”— Psalm 144:10
“And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.” Chronicles adds, “of the house of Judah” (we quote from Kings). “But Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons which were slain; and they hid him, even him and his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain.”
“That wicked woman,” is the character given this Athaliah by the Holy Ghost in 2 Chron. 24:7. She was just such a daughter as her infamous mother, “that woman Jezebel,” was likely to produce. Her father was himself a murderer, and the family character was fully marked in her. She heartlessly slaughtered her own grandchildren in her lust for power. She would be
herself ruler of the kingdom, even at the cost of the lives of helpless and innocent children. No character in history, sacred or secular, stands out blacker or more hideous than this daughter-in-law of the godly Jehoshaphat. Joash was only an infant at the time, and his mother (Zibiah of Beersheba), in all likelihood, dead—murdered, probably, by her fiendish mother-in-law. Jehosheba (
Jehovah’s oath, i.e., devoted to Him), the child’s aunt, and wife of the high priest Jehoiada (
, hid him, with his nurse, first in one of the palace bedchambers, and later in the temple (where she lived), among her own children, and perhaps as one of them. “And he was with them hid in the house of God six years: and Athaliah reigned over the land.” It was God’s mercy to the house of David, even as it had been declared at the time of the reign of Athaliah’s husband Jehoram: “Howbeit the Lord would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that He had made with David, and as He promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever” (2 Chron. 21:7).
Athaliah, no doubt, thought herself secure upon the throne of David. Six years she possessed the coveted power, and could say, “I sit a queen.” She made the most of her opportunity to corrupt the kingdom with idolatry, and had a temple built to Baal. But in the seventh year her richly-merited retribution suddenly came upon her. “And in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guards, and brought them to him into the house of the Lord, and made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of the Lord, and showed them the king’s son.” “And they went about in Judah, and gathered the Levites out of all the cities of Judah, and the chief of the fathers of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. And all the congregation made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And he (Jehoiada) said unto them, Behold, the king’s son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the sons of David.” Arrangements were then entered into for the most unique coronation that was ever known. Everything was ordered with great care and secrecy, that suspicion should not be aroused. Trusted men, chiefly Levites, were stationed at important points about the king’s house and temple. The sabbath day, and the time for the changing of the courses of the priests and Levites, may have been chosen so that the unusually large number of people about the temple would not excite suspicion in the minds of Athaliah and her Baalite minions. The Levites carefully guarded the royal child, “every man with his weapons in his hand,” with strict orders to slay any one that should attempt to approach him. “And to the captains over hundreds did the priest give king David’s spears and shields, that were in the temple of the Lord,” and a strong guard was placed within the temple enclosure. “Then they brought out the king’s son, and put upon him the crown, and gave him the testimony (a copy of the law, Deut. 17:18), and made him king. And Jehoiada and his sons anointed him, and said, God save the king!” It is a thrilling tale, and nowhere given so well as in our time-honored Authorized Version.
“Now when Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she came to the people into the house of the Lord: and she looked, and
, behold, the king stood at (or, on) his pillar (stage, or scaffold—
at the entering in, and the princes and the trumpeters by the king: and all the people of the land rejoiced, and sounded with trumpets, also the singers with instruments of music, and such as taught to sing praise. Then Athaliah rent her clothes, and said, Treason! Treason!” “But Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains of the hundreds, the officers of the host, and said unto them, Have her forth of the ranges: and him that followeth her kill with the sword. For the priest had said, Let her not be slain in the house of the Lord. And they laid hands on her; and she went by the way by which the horses came into the king’s house: and there she was slain. And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people; between the king also and the people. And all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and brake it down; his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of the Lord. And he took the rulers over hundreds, and the captains, and the guard, and all the people of the land; and they brought down the king from the house of the Lord, and came by the way of the gate of the guard to the king’s house. And he sat on the throne of the kings. And all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet: and they slew Athaliah with the sword beside the
king’s house” (2 Kings 11).
Jehoiada and his wife had engaged in this dangerous business in faith, as is manifest by the words of Jehoiada, “Behold the king’s son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the sons of David.” “The Lord hath said” is quite enough for faith to move on or to act whatever be the dangers, the difficulties and the toils. And in that path all the wheels of Providence are made to turn to bring about the successful end. God gives the needful wisdom in it too, and so every step and arrangement of this faithful man succeeds perfectly, all proving that whatever be the cunning and craft of the devil in Athaliah, it must succumb to the wisdom of God and of faith. The cause was of God; Joash was the only and rightful heir to the throne of David, which by the promise of God was not to be without an heir till that Heir should come who would be “the sure mercies of David” and would need no successor.
“Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Zibiah
gazelle) of Beersheba. And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest. And Jehoiada took for him two wives; and he begat sons and daughters.” His uncle appears to have exercised a wholesome influence over him. The noting of his taking two wives for him is doubtless to manifest his godly concern for the succession mentioned above.
“And it came to pass after this, that Joash was minded to repair the house of the Lord. And he gathered together the priests and Levites, and said to them, Go out into the cities of Judah, and gather of all Israel money to repair the house of your God from year to year, and see that ye hasten the matter. Howbeit the Levites hastened it not.” Nothing was done at the time. The spiritual condition of the people made it difficult to accomplish anything. “The people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places,” and would therefore feel little responsibility toward the temple at Jerusalem. The lines in Pope’s pantheistic “Universal Prayer,”
“To Thee whose temple is all space, Whose altar, earth, sea, skies!
would, no doubt, express pretty accurately their thoughts in the matter. What little was contributed was, it would seem, misappropriated towards the maintainance of the priests and Levites. (See 2 Ki. 12:7, 8, N. Tr.) This neglect continued until the twenty-third year of Joash. Then “the king called for Jehoiada the chief, and said unto him, Why hast thou not required of the Levites to bring in, out of Judah and out of Jerusalem, the collection, according to the commandment of Moses the servant of the Lord, and of the congregation of Israel, for the tabernacle of witness?” (He had not neglected to read the “testimony” delivered to him at his coronation, evidently). “For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up (devastated, N. Tr.) the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim.” True to what he had learned in the word of God, he did not hesitate to admonish even the high priest if he was negligent in carrying it out, for that Word is above all. And though he owed to his uncle a lasting debt of gratitude for the preservation of his infant life, he could, when occasion required, make request of him that he, as God’s high priest, perform his duty in reference to the necessary repairs of that house over which he had been set by God. Would God he had continued in such a mind to the end of his reign.
“And at the king’s commandment they made a chest, and set it without at the gate of the house of the Lord. And they made a proclamation through Judah and Jerusalem, to bring in to the Lord the collection that Moses the servant of God laid upon Israel in the wilderness.” (See Ex. 30:11-16.) “And all the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the chest, until they had made an end.” It commended itself to the people’s conscience, as what is of God usualy does, and they gave as the Lord loves to see His people give—cheerfully. “Now it came to pass, that at what time the chest was brought unto the king’s office by the hand of the Levites, and when they saw that there was much money, the king’s scribe and the high priest’s officer came and emptied the chest, and took it, and carried it to his place again. Thus they did day by day, and gathered money in abundance. And the king and Jehoiada gave it to such as did the work of the service of the house of the Lord, and hired masons and carpenters to repair the house of the Lord, and also such as wrought iron and brass to mend the house of the Lord. So the workmen wrought, and the work was perfected by them, and they set the house of God in his state, and strengthened it.” No exacting accounts were kept; there was no suspicion of dishonesty, or misappropriation; the most beautiful confidence prevailed, evidencing the work of God. When it is the work of God, the
heart is engaged; selfish ends are absent; there is one common object; all this produces confidence: “Moreover they reckoned not with the men, in whose hand they delivered the money to be bestowed on the workmen: for they dealt faithfully.”
More than sufficient was bestowed by the willing-hearted people, “And when they had finished it, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada, whereof were made vessels for the house of the Lord, even vessels to minister, and to offer withal, and spoons, and vessels of gold and silver.” Nor were the priests left unprovided for. “The money of trespass-offerings and the money of sin-offerings was not brought into the house of Jehovah; it was for the priests” (2 Ki. 12:16, N. Tr.)
“And they offered burnt-offerings in the house of the Lord continually all the days of Jehoiada. But Jehoiada waxed old, and was full of days when he died; a hundred and thirty years old was he when he died. And they buried him in the city of David among the kings (as well they might), because he had done good in Israel, both toward God, and toward His house.” He had remembered the claims of the Holy One of Israel, and attended to them with vigor and fidelity. Nor could it be other than the energy of
faith in a man nearly a hundred years old setting himself to overthrow such an enemy of God as Athaliah.
His extreme old age may account for his evident laxity in performing the king’s command in regard to the repairing of the temple. He was born before the death of Solomon, and had seen much during his long life that peculiarly qualified him to become the protector and early guide of Jehoash. By him the kingdom was reestablished, and the cause of Jehovah revived during his last days on earth. He was a true king, in heart and mind, and it was meet that the aged patriarch’s mitered head should be laid to rest among those who had worn the crown.
How long he had filled the office of high priest is not known. He succeeded Amariah, who was high priest under Jehoshaphat. What a contrast between him and those other two high priests, Annas and Caiaphas, of whom we read in the New Testament. He labored to maintain the succession; they labored to destroy the final Heir—”great David’s greater Son.” And when the time of rewards comes, what will be the unspeakable differences!
But now a cloud begins to appear that dims the brightness of the reign of Joash, and culminates in treachery and murder. “Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king harkened unto them. And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass. Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.” The revival during Joash’s early reign had already lost its hold; it could not have been of much depth when they could so quickly turn aside to idols after Jehoiada’s departure. But the spirit of the good high priest was not dead; his worthy son Zechariah withstood and condemned their backslidings. “And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, He hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of the Lord.” “At the commandment of the king”! Alas for Joash’s unfaithfulness to God, and base ingratitude to the man who had been to him so great a benefactor! Zechariah was his cousin, and his foster-brother too! “Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The Lord look upon it, and require it.” This is, in all probability, the “Zacharias” referred to by our Lord, “whom ye slew,” He says, “between the temple and the altar.” He was the last
historical Old Testament martyr, as Abel had been the first. The prophet Urijah was slain almost two hundred and fifty years after Zechariah, but it is not recorded in the historical canon of Scripture; it is only mentioned incidentally in the prophecy of Jeremiah (chap. 26:23). “Son of Barachias” (Matt. 23:35) presents no real difficulty. It may have been a second name for Jehoiada (and would be a very appropriate one too: “Barachias”—
blessed); or, Barachias may have been one of Zechariah’s earlier ancestors, as “son of” frequently means in Scripture. Luke, chap, 11:51, does not have “son of Barachias.” But one of the first of the above explanations is preferable.6 Anyway, he met his death at the hand of the very man for whom his mother and his father risked their lives. Other sons of Jehoiada were also slain by Joash (2 Chron. 24:25). “The Lord look upon it, and require it,” the dying martyr said. Stephen, also stoned for his testimony, cried, when dying, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Law, under which “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward,” was the governing principle of the dispensation under which the martyr Zechariah died; grace reigned in Stephen’s day (as still in ours); therefore the difference in the dying martyrs’ prayers. Both, though so unlike, were in perfect keeping with the dispensations under which they witnessed.
“The Lord require it.” And He did, and that right speedily—for He does not disregard the dying prayers of men like Zechariah. “And it came to pass at the end of the year, that the host of Syria came up against him: and they came to Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people” (they were judged first for having been chiefly guilty in persuading the king to forsake Jehovah,) “and sent all the spoil of them unto the king of Damascus. For the army of the Syrians came with a small company of men, and the Lord delivered a very great host into their hand, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. So they executed judgment against Joash. And when they were departed from him (for they left him in great diseases), his own servants conspired against him for the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and slew him on his bed, and he died: and they buried him in the city of David, but they buried him not in the sepulchres of the kings.” 2 Kings 12:17, 18 records a previous invasion of Syrians under Hazael, when Joash bought him off with gold and other treasures taken from the temple and the king’s palace. It was then that they discovered the real weakness of the army of Joash (spite of its being “a very great host”); hence only “a small company of men” was sent out on the second expedition against him. “There is no king saved by the multitude of a host,” wrote that king (Ps. 33:16) whose throne Joash so unworthily filled. And his time to receive the due reward of his deeds was come, and there was no power on earth that could have saved him. The murdered Zechariah’s name (
Jah hath re-
membered) must have had a terrible significance to him as he lay in “great diseases” on his bed in the house of Millo, the citadel of Zion. And if he escaped death at the hands of the Syrians by taking refuge in the stronghold at the descent of Silla (2 Kings 12:20, N. Tr.), it was only to be treacherously assassinated by his servants, both of them sons of Gentile women (2 Chron. 24:26), fruit of mixed marriages, condemned by the law. So disobedience brings its own bitter reward, and what God’s people sow they always, in some way or other, reap. Joash abundantly deserved his inglorious and terrible end. It can be ever said, when the judgments of God are seen to come upon such as he, “Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy” (Rev. 16:5, 6).
6 But see Num. Bibte (Matthew), page 219. “There seems no good reason for supposing any other than Zechariah the prophet to be meant, though Zechariah the son of Jehoiada is generally taken to be. But this leaves the ‘son of Barachias’ to be accounted for, when the ‘son of Jehoiada’ also would havp better reminded them of the history. It seems also too far back (in Joash’s time) for the purpose, when summing up the guilt of the people.”
“As to Zechariah the prophet, he was the son of Berachiah, and grandson of Iddo; and ‘ the Jewish Targum states that Zechariah the sou of Iddo, a prophet and priest, was slain in the sanctuary.’”—See “The Irrationalism of Infidelity,”by J. N. Darby, pp. 150-159.—