2 Kings 11:4-21
And the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard…
For six years Athaliah was dominant in Israel. Jehoiada meanwhile kept his secret well. Least of all did the usurping queen suspect that a legitimate heir to the throne was in hiding in the temple almost at her own palace door. Her reign must have grown well-nigh unendurable to the people, when they were so willing as the event proved to throw it off. At the six years' end Jehoiada prepared for his coup d'etat.
I. JEHOIADA'S PREPARATIONS.
1. Joash produced. The good priest found it necessary to proceed with caution. His measures were taken with skill and secrecy. He first took into his confidence the five centurions of the life-guards, made them swear an oath of fidelity, then produced the king, and showed him to them. The soldiers entered into his plan at once. The risks were enormous, but God's shield was around this one remaining "lamp" of David's house, and did not allow its tremulous light to be extinguished. The boy-king was the feeble ark that bore the fortunes of David's house and of Messianic promise. Had he perished, God's Word would have fallen to the ground. The Chronicler tells how the captains of hundreds went forth and secretly spread among the Levites and chief of the fathers of Israel the tidings that there was still a living heir of David's line, and how these came to Jerusalem, and saw the young king too (2 Chronicles 23:2, 3). It is remarkable that a fact known to so many persons did not in some way leak out. But the people were of one heart and one soul, and Athaliah was left in her false security without a single friend to warn her of her danger.
2. The events sabbath. The day chosen for the public production of the king was probably a feast-day. Otherwise the large concourse of people from all parts of the land could hardly have failed to attract attention. It was a sabbath and an high day - "the better the day, the better the deed." What was contemplated was indeed a revolution, and might involve bloodshed; but it was also a reviving of the fallen theocracy, a replanting of the red of Jesse, and therefore fit work for the sabbath. Nothing that favorably affects the fortunes of the kingdom of God is out of place on the sabbath day. Jehoiada made careful strategic preparations, combining apparently the Levites who went on and off duty in the temple with the life-guards under the captains, and assigning to different companies their respective posts.
3. The place and temple guarded. Guards were told off both for the "king's house" and for the temple.
(1) those who entered on duty on the sabbath were divided into three parts, and posted round the palace. One third was posted at the principal entrance; a second third at "the gate Sur" - perhaps a side gate - and the remaining third was placed at a gate which communicated with the temple (ver. 19), where the guards or "runners" were usually stationed.
(2) Those, again, who went off duty on the sabbath were placed within the court of the temple, stretching across from side to side, to guard the person of the king. To these weapons were given from David's spears and shields, which were in the temple of the Lord. While trusting in God, Jehoiada thus took every human precaution. Faith and works co-operate in God's service. Our dependence should be as entirely in God as if human means were unavailing, yet our use of means should be as diligent as if everything depended on their employment.
II. THE KING CROWNED.
1. The safety of the king's person. When the young king Joash was brought forth, and placed on a raised stand in the temple court, his guard stood firmly around him, each man clutching his weapon. The instructions were that any person attempting to break through the ranks should at once be slain. The person of David's son was too precious to be left without an effectual guard. Yet more effectual is the guard which God places round his sons (Psalm 34:6, 7).
2. The ceremony of coronation. The act of coronation of the child-king was then proceeded with. Jehoiada presided at the ceremony.
(1) The crown - visible symbol of royal office - was placed upon his head. God's priest could well preside at the coronation of God's king. As son of David, Joash was the legitimate heir of the throne. Royal authority is from God, and investiture at the hands of God's ministers is our acknowledgment of this. Only those who rule by Divine favor can look for a blessing on their crown.
(2) He had put upon his head "the testimony," i.e. the Law of Moses, by which kings of Judah and Israel were to be guided (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). "Finely are both the crown and the book presented to the king, that he might be not only mighty, but also wise, or, as we may say, know God's Word and right. Thus, even now, we make kings with a sword and book (Luther). The highest in the land are not above the authority of God's Word. He by whom "kings reign" is mightier than the mightiest, and requires from the monarch the same allegiance as from the humblest of his subjects. A nation is happy, prosperous, and blessed only when God's Law is made the rule of its policy and the foundation of its government (Deuteronomy 4:6-8).
(3) He was anointed with oil. For where God gives office he gives also qualification for that office. Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Word without the Spirit to interpret it, and to give strength for obedience to it, is useless. Kings need the grace of God for the discharge of their duties as much as, even more than, ordinary people. Jesus is God's King, "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows" (Hebrews 1:9).
(4) He was acknowledged as king by popular acclamation. "They clapped their hands and said, God save the king!" The Divine choice was ratified by the free election of the people. While kingly, like all other authority, is derived from God, a throne is only strong when it rests on the loyal affection of the body of the people.
III. THE DEATH OF ATHALIAH.
1. The shout of a king. Athaliah, though queen of Judah, was not a worshipper of the God of Judah. While the scenes above described were being transacted, she was either in her own "house of Baal," or in the palace. But now the ringing shouts of the people apprised her that something was wrong. The sight of the guards posted round her palace would add to her alarms. She hastened to the temple, and there beheld a spectacle which told her that her hour was come. The young Joash was standing on his platform, the crown on his head, the captains and trumpeters around him, while the air rang with the joyful huzzas of the people, with the notes of the silver trumpets, and with cries of "Let the king live!" Only in part could Athaliah read the meaning of the scene, for she did not know who this crowned boy was. But she saw enough to tell her that the loyalty of the people had found a new center, and that her power was gone. The rejoicings of the people would be gall and wormwood to her heart, for they told her, not only that it was all over with her authority, but that the people were glad it was so. How swiftly, as by a bolt from a clear sky, does retribution often fall upon the wicked! An hour before Athaliah had no suspicion of any calamity. She had but to speak, and guards and servants were ready to yield her all obedience; now her authority has departed like a pricked bubble, and she stands helpless among a multitude - none so poor as to do her reverence. The passage is an illustration of the proverb, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn" (Proverbs 29:2).
2. Treason to a traitress. When Athaliah saw what was being done, heard the shouts, and witnessed the rejoicings, she rent her garments, and cried, "Treason! Treason!" Treason is an act or series of acts designed to compass the overthrow of a constituted government, and is generally held to be punishable by death, It is wicked and illegitimate governments which make most of the crime of treason, and most severely enforce the penalties against it. Yet it is plain that these penalties are justified only on the supposition that the government against which the treason is directed is a legitimate one. A government which is itself born and bred of treason has no moral justification for punishing treason in others. Athaliah was queen, not by God's will, but in defiance of all right and morality. She had usurped the throne, and killed (or thought she had killed) the rightful heirs to it. Treason against such a government, itself the offspring of the blackest treachery, was not a crime, but might be the highest duty. Still, as if some horrid iniquity was being practiced, the traitress rends her clothes, and cries, "Treason!" Her own treason is unthought of; she sees only the treason of her enemies. Is not this state of mind too common? Men are loud in denouncing transgressions which they themselves are flagrantly guilty of. They point to the mote in another's eye, without reflecting on the beam in their own. Callous as to their own falsehood, selfishness, and dishonesty, they detect in an instant, and loudly denounce, the same vices in their neighbors, especially when practiced towards themselves. It is this which renders them inexcusable. For the power to detect sin in others implies a knowledge of the law which condemns the person judging if he does the same things (Romans 2:1).
3. Just retribution. The order of Jehoiada was that if any one ventured to follow Athaliah, he was to be killed with the sword. But no one seems to have shown any pity for the fallen queen. The downfall of her power was thus complete. A new government having been constituted, her own attempt to excite rebellion now fell under the category of treason, and was punishable. Jehoiada gives orders for her being taken beyond the temple bounds, and there slain. We see hands laid upon her, and she is led away, or goes, "by the way by the which the horses come into the king's house," and in that place of stables meets her death. An inglorious end! But what glory can we look for to crown a career of sin? In Athaliah, the last member of Ahab's cursed house met a deserved doom. Judgment against the sinner may not always be executed speedily, but the stroke will surely fall at last (Ecclesiastes 8:11).
IV. A COVENANT WITH JEHOVAH.
1. The covenant with God renewed. The people had received, as if from heaven, a new king of the line of David, and the moment was auspicious for a new covenant being entered into, and formally ratified, with God. It is good when special mercies are made an occasion of renewal of vows. The covenant promoted by Jehoiada wan twofold.
(1) It was a covenant between the king and people and Jehovah. In this transaction they solemnly pledged themselves to be the Lord's people. National covenanting is only appropriate when it springs from the spontaneous impulse of the masses of the people. Among the Hebrews, who, by the very form of their national existence, were a people in covenant with Jehovah, such renewal of religious vows was specially suitable. The idea of a "people of the Lord" is now embodied, not in a national form, but in the Church of Christ. Great is the honor of forming part of this "chosen generation," this "royal priesthood," this "holy nation," this "peculiar people" (1 Peter 2:9), and we should often recall the fact to ourselves, and make it the basis of new consecration.
(2) It was a covenant between the king and the people. He, on his part, would pledge himself to maintain the government according to the Law of God; and they, on theirs, would promise him loyalty and obedience. Happy is it, when rulers and people stand in this bond of mutual confidence!
2. Zeal in religious reform. The earnest spirit awakened by this solemn act of covenant immediately showed itself in zealous efforts for the removal of abuses. We read that, not one or two, but "all the people of the land," set themselves to reforming, work.
(1) They went into the house of Baal, and brake it down. A house of Baal in Jerusalem, and possibly on the temple hill, was a deliberate insult to Jehovah. No respect for the beauty or costliness of the building was allowed to save it from destruction. When higher interests are involved, artistic and sentimental considerations must go to the wall.
(2) They brake in pieces "thoroughly" Baal's altars and images. Idolatry was to be thoroughly rooted out in accordance with the word of the testimony (Deuteronomy 12:1-3).
(3) They slew Mattan, the high priest of Baal. By the Law of Israel his life was forfeited through the practice of idolatry.
(4) They restored the worship of the temple. This is implied in the statement, "The priest appointed officers over the house of the Lord." It is evident from the next chapter that the temple service had been allowed to become greatly disorganized. The zeal of these reformers had, therefore, its positive side. They sought to build up as well as cast down. The false worship of God was replaced by the true. Court fashion goes a long way in determining preferences in religion. When Athaliah worshipped Baal, it was fashionable to neglect Jehovah; now that Joash restored the worship of Jehovah, people flocked back to the temple. Those in high stations have great responsibilities, and not least for the examples they set in religion.
3. The joy of the people. Joash was now escorted in grand procession to the palace of his fathers. Athaliah was dead, and he sat on the throne of the kings. Joy filled the people's hearts, and quiet reigned in the city. When godliness is victorious, it diffuses peace and gladness through all minds. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: In the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the captains over hundreds of the Carites and of the guard, and brought them to him into the house of Yahweh; and he made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of Yahweh, and showed them the king's son.