2 Kings 12:17-21
Then Hazael king of Syria went up, and fought against Gath, and took it: and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem.…
The reign of Joash began with bright promise, but ended in gloom and tribulation. It furnishes another instance of the evil consequences of forsaking God.
I. JOASH'S APOSTASY. Of this a fuller account is given in the Book of Chronicles than here, though the statement in ver. 2, "Joash did right all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him," already hints at a falling away after Jehoiada's death. From Chronicles we learn the nature of his apostasy.
1. He yielded to bad counsel. His good adviser having died at the extreme age of a hundred and thirty, he listened to the flatteries and seductions of the princes of Judah, whose bent was all towards evil (2 Chronicles 24:17).
2. He revived idolatry. If he did not actually participate in the renewed setting up of idols, he permitted it. Baal-worship, from which in infancy he had suffered so much, again lifted up its head in Jerusalem. For this trespass it is said, "wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 24:18).
3. He shed innocent blood. This declension of Joash was not allowed to go unrebuked. God sent prophets to him to testify to him and warn him, especially Zechariah, the son, or perhaps grandson, of the priest Jehoiada. But so far had the infatuation of Joash gone that he actually permitted this son of his former friend and benefactor to be stoned with stones between the temple and the altar in the court of the Lord's house (2 Chronicles 24:20-22; cf. Matthew 23:35). This ineffaceable crime completed his ruin. As Zechariah died he had said," The Lord look upon it, and require it" (2 Chronicles 24:22); and God did require it. The Jews had a tradition that, at the capture of Jerusalem, this blood of Zechariah bubbled up from the floor of the temple court, and could not be pacified. Nebusaradan brought rabbis, and slew them on it, still it was not quiet; he brought children, and slew them on it, still it was not quiet; he slew ninety-four thousand on it, yet it was not quiet. The fable illustrates at least the heinousness of the deed.
II. HAZAEL'S INVASION. The instrument employed to chastise Joash and the people for their sins was the redoubtable Hazael. He invaded the laud by the way of Philistia, and reduced it to great distress. We note regarding the invasion:
1. Its resistless character. It was but a very small company of. men that came with Hazael, but they seem to have swept the "very great host" of Judah before them with ease, destroying the princes of the people, who had been ringleaders in wickedness, and sending the spoil on to Damascus (cf. 2 Chronicles 24:24). It is a fatal thing to break faith with God, to apostatize from solemn covenants with him, to provoke him to anger by open wickedness and deeds of blood. The strength of a nation stands not in its mighty men, but in the favor of God, and where that is withdrawn, a handful of armed men will chase a thousand (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25-27; Deuteronomy 28:27-48).
2. The ignominious tribute. What, in so deplorable a case, could Joash do? His princes, so bold in counseling him in courses of sin, were cowards in the field; and Hazael seemed bent on utterly overthrowing him. He had no alternative but to make the best terms he could, and buy the invader off. To furnish the requisite tribute he had to strip both the temple and his own house of all their goodly treasures. He took the hallowed things of his forefathers out of the temple, and the gold that was found in its treasuries; he took also his own gold, and sent everything to Hazael. He, the restorer of the temple, is forced to become the spoiler of the temple. To such depths of ignominy and misery are men led by forsaking the ways of God. Yet nothing seems to avail sinners for warning! They go on as madly in ways of wickedness as if no one had ever tried these paths before them, and found them the ways of death.
III. THE FATAL CONSPIRACY. We have, finally, the account of how Joash met his end by a conspiracy of two of his servants.
1. The origin of the conspiracy. We cannot err in supposing that it had its origin in the seething discontent of the people. They saw the kingdom going to pieces in the hands of an unfaithful king; they saw righteous blood shed; they had suffered severely from the barbarities of invasion. The conspirators do not seem to have plotted any dynastic change. Their act only expressed the bitter hatred with which the person of the king had come to be regarded. How different from the day when the multitude shouted, "God save the king!" And that change had come about solely through Joash's departure from the right ways of God.
2. Its fatal result. The servants, whose names are given in the text, smote him in "the house of Millo" so that he died. Thus Joash fell by the stroke of an assassin, unpitied, unlamented by his people. When the bonds of godliness are loosed, the bonds of fidelity between man and man are loosed too (Hosea 4:1, 2).
3. The dishonor to his body. The crowning ignominy put upon Joash was the refusal of the people to allow him to be buried in the sepulcher of the kings, as Jehoiada had been (2 Chronicles 24:25). This confirms what is said above of the odium in which he was held by his people. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Hazael king of Syria went up, and fought against Gath, and took it: and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem.