Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.XI.
ATHALIAH USURPS THE THRONE OF JUDAH, BUT IS DEPOSED AND SLAIN, AND HER GRANDSON JOASH CROWNED, THROUGH THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF THE HIGH PRIEST JEHOIADA.(Comp. 2Chronicles 22:10; 2Chronicles 23:21.)
(1) And when Athaliah . . . saw.—Rather, Now Athaliah . . . had seen. (The and, which the common Hebrew text inserts before the verb, is merely a mistaken repetition of the last letter of Ahaziah. Many MSS. omit it.)
Her son.—Ahaziah (2Kings 9:27). The history of the Judæan monarchy is resumed from that point.
Destroyed all the seed royal.—“The seed of the kingdom” (see margin) means all who might set up claims to the succession. Ahaziah’s brothers had been slain by the Arabs (2Chronicles 21:17); and his “kinsmen” by Jehu (2Kings 10:14). Those whom Athaliah slew would be for the most part Ahaziah’s own sons, though other relatives are not excluded by the term.
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.(2) But Jehosheba . . . sister of Ahaziah.—By a different mother (see Josephus). Athaliah would not have allowed her daughter to marry the high priest of Jehovah. (Comp. 2Kings 11:3 with 2Chronicles 22:11.) This marriage with a sister of the king shows what almost royal dignity belonged to the high priest’s office.
The king’s sons which were slain.—Rather, which were to be put to death. At the time when the order for slaying the princes had been given, Jehosheba (or Jehoshabeath; Chronicles) concealed the infant Joash. The fact of his infancy caused him to be overlooked. [The Hebrew text here reads by mistake a word meaning deaths (Jeremiah 16:4). Chronicles supports the Hebrew margin.]
And they hid him.—This clause is out of its place here. The Hebrew is, him and his nurse in the chamber of the beds; and they hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death. Clearly the word, “and she put,” supplied in Chronicles, has fallen out before this. The Targum and Syriac read, “and she hid him and his nurse,” &c.
In the bedchamber.—In the chamber of beds, i.e., the room in the palace where the mattresses and the coverlets were kept, according to a custom still prevalent in the East. This chamber being unoccupied was the nearest hiding-place at first. The babe was afterwards secretly conveyed within the Temple precincts.
And he was with her hid in the house of the LORD six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land.(3) And he was with her—i.e., with Jehosheba his aunt. The words “in the house of the Lord” should immediately follow. The Word “hid” is connected with “six years” in the Hebrew, and relates to the infant prince only. Joash was with his aunt “in the house of the Lord”—i.e., in one of the chambers allotted to the priests, perhaps even in the high priest’s residence, which may have been within the sacred precincts. Thenius assumes that the statement of Chronicles, that Jehosheba was wife of the high priest, has no other ground than a “traditional interpretation” of these words; and asserts that Jehosheba was herself obliged to share the asylum of the infant prince in order to escape the vengeance of Athaliah. But it is certain that the chronicler had better authority than mere tradition for his important additions to the history of the kings. (See Note on 2Chronicles 22:11.)
Did reign.—Was reigning.
And the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard, 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 shewed them the king's son.(4) And the seventh year.—When perhaps discontent at Athalialı’s tyranny had reached a climax.
Jehoiada.—The high priest (2Kings 11:9). The curious fact that his rank is not specified hero upon the first mention of his name, suggests the inference that in the original authority of this narrative he had been mentioned as high priest, and husband of Jehosheba, at the outset of the story, as in 2Chronicles 22:11.
The rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard.—Rather, the centurions of the Carians and the Couriers—i.e., the officers commanding the royal guard. The terms rendered “Carians” and “Couriers” are obscure. Thenius prefers to translate the first “executioners.” (Comp. Notes on 1Kings 1:38; 2Samuel 8:18; 2Samuel 15:18; 2Samuel 16:6; 1Chronicles 18:17.) Thenius argues against the idea that so patriotic and pious a king as David could have employed foreign and heathen soldiers as his body-guard. But did not David himself serve as a mercenary with Achish, king of Gath, and commit his parents to the care of the king of Moab? And would not the mercenaries who enlisted in the guard of the Israelite sovereigns adopt the religion of their new country? (Comp. the case of Uriah the Hittite.) The apparently gentilic ending of the words rendered “Cherethites and Pelethites” in Samuel, and that rendered “captains” in this place, Thenius explains as marking an adjective denoting position or class. It may be so, but sub judice lis est.
Made a covenant with them.—The chronicler gives the names of the centurions. His account of the whole transaction, while generally coinciding with that given here, presents certain striking differences, of which the most salient is the prominence assigned to the priests and Levites in the matter. These deviations are explicable on the assumption that the chronicler drew his information from a large historical compilation somewhat later than the Books of Kings, and containing much more than they contain, though mainly based upon the same annalistic sources. The compilors of the two canonical histories were determined in their choice of materials and manner of treatment by their individual aims and points of view, which differed considerably. (See the Introductions to Kings and Chronicles.) At the same time, it must not be forgotten that the account before us is the older and more original, and, therefore, the more valuable regarded as mere history.
And he commanded them, saying, This is the thing that ye shall do; A third part of you that enter in on the sabbath shall even be keepers of the watch of the king's house;(5, 6) Three companies of the guards to be stationed at the three approaches to the palace.
(5) A third part of you . . . king’s house.—Rather, the third of you who come in on the Sabbath shall keep the ward of the king’s house. (Reading w‘shām‘rû, as in 2Kings 11:7.) The troops of the royal guard regularly succeeded each other on duty just as they do in modern European capitals. That the Sabbath was the day on which they relieved each other is known only from this passage; but the priestly and Levitical guilds did the same, and their organisation in many ways resembled that of an army.
The watch of the king’s house.—There were two places to be occupied for the success of the present movement—viz., the royal palace and the Temple, “the king’s house” and “the house of the Lord.” In the former was Athaliah, the usurping queen, whose movements must be closely watched, and whose adherents must be prevented from occupying and defending the palace; in the latter, the young heir to the throne, who must be protected from attack. That “the king’s house” here means the palace proper is evident from 2Kings 11:16; 2Kings 11:19, and, indeed, from the whole narrative. The LXX. adds, “at the entry” (ἐν τῷ πυλῶνι)—i.e., the grand entrance to the palace itself. This is at least a correct gloss, and may be part of the original text.
And a third part shall be at the gate of Sur; and a third part at the gate behind the guard: so shall ye keep the watch of the house, that it be not broken down.(6) And a third part shall be at the gate of Sur.—Or, and the third (shall be on guard) at the gate of Sur, Instead of Sûr (“turning aside”) Chronicles has Jesôd (“foundation”). The gate Sur was apparently a side exit from the court of the palace, such as may be seen in the old Egyptian palaces at Medinat-Abû and Karnak. “Jesod” is another name for the same side-door, or, as is far more likely, a textual corruption of “Sur.”
And a third part at the gate behind the guard.—Literally, and the third at the gate behind the Couriers. In 2Kings 11:19 “the gate of the Couriers” is mentioned, apparently as the principal entrance to the palace enclosure. That gate and this one are probably the same. It is here called “the gate behind the Couriers” because a guard was usually stationed in front of it. Perhaps the word “behind” has originated in a mere echo of the word “gate” (‘ahar, sha’ar), and should be omitted as an error of transcription.
So shall ye keep the watch of the house.—Thus shall ye—the three divisions of the guards, entering on duty on the Sabbath—guard the entrances and exits of the royal palace.
That it be not broken down.—The Hebrew is only the one word massāh, which occurs nowhere else. It appears to mean “repulse,” “warding off,” and is probably a marginal gloss on “watch” (mishmèreth), explaining its nature—viz., that the guards were to keep back any one who tried to enter the palace buildings. Gesenius paraphrases, “ad depellendum populum” (zum Abwehren). Thenius suggests the reading “and repel”! scil., “all comers” (ûnesōah for massāh). He should have written wenāsôah.
And two parts of all you that go forth on the sabbath, even they shall keep the watch of the house of the LORD about the king.(7, 8) The whole body of guards relieved on the Sabbath are to guard the Temple and the young prince.
(7) And two parts of all you . . . sabbath.—Rather, and the two branches among you, all that go out on the Sabbath. The two “branches” means the two fundamental divisions—viz., Carians (or executioners) and Couriers. The troops relieved on the Sabbath were not to be posted in three companies at three different points, like those who came on duty in their place; but they were to form in two ranks—Carians on one side and Couriers on the other—for the purpose of guarding the Temple, and especially the king’s person.
About.—Literally, in the direction of—i.e., with regard to, over. “The house of the Lord” is obviously contrasted with “the king’s house” (2Kings 11:5).
(8) Ye shall compass the king round about.—They were to form two lines, between which the king might walk safely from the Temple to the palace.
The ranges.—Rather, the ranks—scil., the two lines of the guard formed for the protection of the king. If any one attempted to force his way through the ranks in order to attack the king he was to be slain.
Be ye with the king . . . cometh in.—When he leaves the Temple, and when he enters the palace.
And the captains over the hundreds did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest commanded: and they took every man his men that were to come in on the sabbath, with them that should go out on the sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest.(9, 10) The preparations for carrying out the above arrangements.
And to the captains over hundreds did the priest give king David's spears and shields, that were in the temple of the LORD.(10) King David’s spears and shields.—The Hebrew has spear, but Chronicles has the plural, which appears correct. “Shields” should perhaps be arms. (Comp. 2Samuel 8:7; 2Chronicles 23:9.) The arms which David had laid up in the Temple as spoils of war were now to be used, appropriately enough, for the restoration of David’s heir to the throne. Possibly, as Bähr suggests, the guards who came off duty at the palace had left their weapons there.
And the guard stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, round about the king, from the right corner of the temple to the left corner of the temple, along by the altar and the temple.(11) The guard.—Literally, the Couriers; not therefore the Levites.
And the temple.—And at the Temple. The guard formed in two lines, extending from the south wall to the north wall of the court, one line standing at the altar of burnt offering, which was near the entrance, the other at the sanctuary itself. The words “round about the king” are anticipative.
And he brought forth the king's son, and put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king.(12) And he brought forth the king’s son.—When the two lines were formed, cutting off the interior of the Temple from the court, Jehoiada led forth the young prince into the protected space between them; perhaps from a side chamber, or perhaps from the sanctuary itself.
And gave him the testimony.—The Hebrew has simply and the testimony. Kimchi explains this to mean a royal robe; other rabbis think of a phylactery on the coronet. (See Deuteronomy 6:8.) Thenius says, the Law—i.e., a book in which were written Mosaic ordinances, and which was held in a symbolic manner over the king’s head after he had been crowned. (See Note on 2Chronicles 23:11.)
Anointed him.—The chronicler says it was “Jehoiada and his sons” who did it. It is difficult to see what objection can fairly be taken to this explanatory addition, unless we are to suppose that, although the high priest was present, the soldiers of the guard poured the sacred oil on the king’s head. Yet Thenius adduces it as an instance of the “petty spirit of the chronist,” accusing him of inserting the words “for fear anybody should think of an anointing by unconsecrated hands.” Surely such criticism as this is itself both “petty” and “wilful.” The words probably stood in the chronicler’s principal source.
God save the king.—Literally, Vivat rex. (1Kings 1:25.)
And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came to the people into the temple of the LORD.(13) Of the guard and of the people.—This is correct. The and has fallen out of the Hebrew text.
The guard.—The Aramaic form of the plural, rare in prose, occurs here. (Comp. 1Kings 11:33.) In 2Chronicles 23:11 the words are transposed. This gives a different sense—viz., “of the people running together” to which is added, “and acclaiming the king.” The chronicler may have found this in the work he followed, but the text before us seems preferable, as the word “runners” (Couriers) throughout the account means the royal guard.
The people.—See Note on 2Kings 11:14.
She came . . . into the temple.—Evidently, therefore, the palace was hard by the Temple. (See Note on 2Kings 11:16.)
And when she looked, behold, the king stood by a pillar, as the manner was, and the princes and the trumpeters by the king, and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets: and Athaliah rent her clothes, and cried, Treason, Treason.(14) And when she looked.—Having entered the court, the whole scene met her astonished gaze.
The king stood by a pillar.—Rather, the king was standing on the stand. (Comp. 2Kings 23:3.) The stand (Vulg., “tribunal”) was apparently a dais reserved for the king only, which stood before the great altar, at the entrance to the inner court (2Chronicles 23:13; 2Chronicles 6:13). Thenius maintains that the king stood on the top of the flight of steps leading into the sanctuary. Why, then, does not the text express this meaning more exactly? (Comp. 2Kings 9:13.)
As the manner was—i.e., according to the custom on such occasions.
The princes.—The chiefs of the people, not the centurions of the royal guard, who have their full designation throughout the chapter. (See 2Kings 11:4; 2Kings 11:9-10; 2Kings 11:15; 2Kings 11:19.) The present account has nowhere stated that the nobles were present in the Temple; but this sudden mention of them, as if they had been present throughout the proceedings, is in striking harmony with the chronicler’s express assertion that, after their conference with Jehoiada, the centurions of the guard assembled the Levites and the heads of the clans in the Temple (2Chronicles 23:3). (The LXX. and Vulg. render “singers,” because they read shārîm, “singers,” instead of sārîm, “princes.”)
The trumpeters.—Literally, the trumpets; as we speak of “the violins,” meaning the players on them. The sacred trumpets or clarions blown on solemn occasions by the priests are intended. (Comp. 2Kings 12:14; Numbers 10:2; 1Chronicles 15:24.) This is an indication that the priests and Levites were present as the chronicle so conspicuously represents, and as, indeed, was to be expected on an occasion when the high priest took the lead, and when the scene of action was the Temple. The acting classes of priests and Levitical musicians, warders, and priestly attendants must certainly have participated in the proceedings.
All the people of the land.—Secrecy was no longer necessary, as Thenius supposes, when once the centurions of the guard had heartily taken up with the plot.
Rejoiced . . . blew.—Rejoicing . . . blowing.
But Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains of the hundreds, the officers of the host, and said unto them, Have her forth without 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.(15) The captains of the hundreds, the officers of the host.—The centurions of the royal guard are called “the officers of the host” (comp. Numbers 31:14) to signify that it was they who gave effect to the high priest’s orders by communicating them to their troops.
Have her forth without the ranges.—Rather, Cause her to go out between the ranks—i.e., escort her out of the sacred precincts with a guard on both sides.
Him that followeth her—i.e., whoever shows any sympathy with her, or attempts to take her part. There might have been some of her partisans in the large gathering in the Temple court.
For the priest had said.—This is a parenthetic statement accounting for the order just given; and “had said” may mean “thought.”
And they laid hands on her; and she went by the way by the which the horses came into the king's house: and there was she slain.(16) They laid hands on her.—So the LXX. and Vulg. The Hebrew phrase means: and they made room for her on both sides—i.e., the crowd fell back, and a lane was formed for her exit (so the Targum and Rashi).
She went . . . king’s house.—She entered the palace by way of the entry of the horses. Athaliah was conducted to the royal stables which adjoined the palace, and there put to death.
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.(17) A covenant.—Rather, the covenant. The high priest solemnly renewed the original compact between Jehovah and the king and people—a compact which had been violated by the Baal-worship of recent reigns.
Between the king also and the people.—For the protection of their mutual rights and prerogatives. (Comp. 1Samuel 10:25.) The king was bound to govern according to the law of Jehovah—“the testimony” which had been put upon him (2Kings 11:12). (Comp. Note on 2Chronicles 23:16.) The people were to be loyal to the house of David.
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.(18) All the people of the land went into the house of Baal.—Immediately after the covenant had been renewed, of which the extirpation of the foreign Baal-worship was a consequence. In the fervour of their newly-awakened enthusiasm for Jehovah, the assembly may have hurried off at once to the work of demolition. It seems to be implied that the “house of Baal” stood on the Temple mount, in ostentatious rivalry with the sanctuary of Jehovah. (Comp, the introduction of idolatrous altars into the Temple itself by Manasseh, 2Kings 21:4-5; 2Kings 21:7; 2Kings 23:12.) This house of Baal had, perhaps, been built by Athaliah. (Comp. 1Kings 16:31-32.)
His altars . . . his images.—Or, its (the Temple’s) altars . . . its images.
And the priest appointed officers over the house of the Lord.—The obviously close connection of this statement with what precedes, almost proves that the sanctuary of Baal had stood within the Temple precincts, probably in the outer court. After the destruction of it, Jehoiada appointed certain overseers—probably Levites of rank—to prevent any future desecration of the Temple by the practice of idolatrous rites (comp. Ezekiel 8:5-16), or by wanton attacks of the Baal-worshippers, who might be cowed, but were certainly not exterminated (comp. 2Chronicles 24:7); and to see that the legitimate cultus was properly carried out. (The sentence tells us what was done some time afterwards, in consequence of the reformation; thus finishing the subject in hand at the expense of the strict order of time.)
Mattan.—Mattan is short for Mattanbaal, “gift of Baal,” a Phœnician name occurring in Punic and Assyrian inscriptions (the Muthumballes of Plautus). Comp. also Mitinna and Mattén, as names of Tyrian kings (Inscr. of Tig. Pil. ii.; Herod. Vii. 98).
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.(19) And he took the rulers . . . the land.—Jehoiada now arranges a procession to escort the king in triumph from the Temple to the palace.
The rulers . . . guard.—Rather, the captains of the hundreds (the centurions) and the Carians and the Couriers; or, as Thenius prefers, the lictors and the satellites.
They brought down the king from the house of the Lord.—Down from the Temple to the bridge connecting Moriah with Zion.
And came by the way . . . king’s house.—Rather, and entered the king’s house by way of the gate of the Couriers. This gate, therefore, belonged not to the Temple, but to the palace, and was probably the chief entrance thereto.
And he sat on the throne.—The proceedings ended with the solemn enthronement of the king in the palace of his fathers. (The LXX. reads more suitably: “And they seated him on the throne;” so Chronicles.)
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.(20) All the people of the land . . . the city.—Thenius calls this an “evident contrast between the soldiery and the. citizens; the former exulting in their work, the latter not lifting a finger while the idolatrous tyrant was being put to death “ (connecting the first half of the verse with the second; after Ewald). But his assumption that “all the people of the land,” here and in 2Kings 11:14, means “the soldiery” (“die ganze in Jerusalem anwesende Kriegerische Landesmannschaft—Die Kriegsmannschaft”) is certainly wrong. “The people of the land” are plainly opposed to the royal guards—“the Praetorians”—who effected the revolution, as civilians to soldiers.
The city was in quiet.—The citizens of Jerusalem accepted the revolution without attempting any counter movement. No doubt there was a strong element of Baal-worshippers and partisans of Athaliah in the capital. “The people of the land” (i.e., probably, the people whom the centurions had called together from the country, at the instance of Jehoiada, according to 2Chronicles 23:2) are contrasted with the burghers of Jerusalem. The phrase, “the city was in quiet” (or “had rest,” Judges 5:31), may, however, possibly refer to the deliverance from the tyranny of Athaliah.
And they slew Athaliah.—Rather, and Athaliah they had slain; an emphatic recurrence to the real climax of the story (2Kings 11:16), by way of conclusion.
Beside.—Rather, in, i.e., within the palace enclosure.
Seven years old was Jehoash when he began to reign.(21) Seven years old was Jehoash.—The Hebrew editions connect this verse with chapter 12.