The History of Athaliah
2 Kings 11:1-21
And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.…

And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, etc. Among the blackest names in the long roll of the world's infamy are those of kings and queens, and amongst them Athaliah is not the least abhorrent and revolting. She was the daughter of Ahab King of Israel, and of Jezebel, his notorious wife. She married Joram (or Jehoram) King of Judah. She was the mother of Ahaziah, and advised him in his wickedness. After Jehu had slain him, she resolved to put an end to all the children of her husband by his former wives, and then mount the throne of Judah herself. But the half-sister of Ahaziah, Jehosheba, secured Joash, one of the children and heir to the throne, and secreted him with his nurse for six long years. In the seventh year the young prince was brought forth and placed on the throne. Crowds of people assembled to witness the ceremony, and Athaliah, hearing the shouts of the crowd, hastened to the temple, utterly unsuspicious even of the existence of the young king. When, however, she caught a sight of the young king and heard the hurrahs of the crowd, she felt that her atrocious plans had been frustrated, and in her savage humiliation rent her clothes and cried, "Treason! Treason!" But her hour was over; she was too late to rally a party in favor of her own interest, and by the command of the priest she was instantly removed and violently destroyed. In this woman's life, as here sketched, we have hereditary de, rarity, outwitted wickedness, and just retribution.

I. HEREDITARY DEPRAVITY. We find in this woman, Athaliah, the infernal tendencies of her father and her mother, Ahab and Jezebel. Though they had been swept as monsters from the earth, and were now lying in the grave, their hellish spirit lived and worked in this their daughter. It is, alas! often so. We have an immortality in others, as well as in ourselves. The men of long-forgotten generations still live in the present. Even the moral pulse of Adam throbs in all. By this fact we are reminded:

1. That the moral qualities of parents may become physical tendencies in their children. The man who voluntarily (and all moral qualities are voluntary productions) contracts habits of falsehood, dishonesty, profanity, incontinence, drunkenness, and general intemperance, transmits these to his children as physical tendencies. This is marvelous, but patent to every observer of society and student of history. Who cannot refer to both men and women who have received an unappeasable craving for strong drinks by the drunken habits contracted by their parents?

2. That the evil moral qualities of parents, reappearing in their children in the form of physical tendencies, is no complete justification for the children's wickedness. This is clear:

(1) From the fact that God has endowed all with sufficient force to control all physical tendencies. Most men have sufficient mental faculties to quench the strongest physical passion.

(2) From the personal consciousness of every sinner. When the conscience is quickened, the greatest liar, debauchee, drunkard, thief, becomes filled with compunctions for the crimes committed. Every sigh of remorse on account of sin is a testimony to the power of the human mind to control the passions.

(3) From the Divine Word as found in the Scriptures. "Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free." "He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons."

3. That the way to raise the human race is to improve their moral qualities. Indoctrinate men's souls with truth, benevolence, piety, chastity, purity, etc., and you help on the race to its millennium. And in no other way. The gospel is the instrument for this.

II. OUTWITTED WICKEDNESS. NO doubt this woman, who thought she had destroyed all the "seed royal," considered she had made her way to the throne clear and secure. For six long years she had no conception that one had escaped her bloody purpose. Now it was revealed to her, and her disappointment maddens her with vengeance, and excites the desperate cry, "Treason! Treason!" It is ever so. "He disappointeth the devices of the crafty." History abounds with the examples of the bafflement of wrong. The conduct of Joseph's brethren, Ahithophel, Sanballat, Haman, and the Jewish Sanhedrin in relation to Christ, are instances. Satan, the arch-enemy of the universe, will exemplify this through all the crises of his accursed future. A piece of conduct, wrought by the highest human skill and earnest industry, if not in accord with the immutable principles of right and truth, can no more succeed in its purpose than a house can stand, which is built regardless of the resistless laws of gravitation. The architecture may look well, the materials be most precious, and the production be most costly, yet down it must come, and confound the builder. Craftiness uses lies as concealment and defense, but the eternal law of Providence makes them snares. One lie leads to another, and so on, until they become so numerous that the author involves himself in contradictions, and he falls and flounders like a wild beast in a snare.

III. JUST RETRIBUTION. "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.... 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.... 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." Thus Soepe intereunt aliis meditantes necem. Those who plot the destruction of others often fall themselves. Here is:

1. A terrible retribution.

2. A prompt retribution. It came on her here before she passed into the other world. Retribution is going on now and here.

3. A retribution administered by human hands. Truly "the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; yet he shall perish forever.... Yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night." An Oriental act thus vividly describes the retribution that must follow wickedness -

"All vice to which man yields in greed to do it,
Or soon or late, be sure, he'll sorely rue it;
Experience deep, howe'er false seeming blind him,
Surcharged with retribution, out will find him.

It locks upon his soul a fatal fetter,
Explodes throughout his face in horrid tatter,
Over his shameless eyeballs brings a blurring,
Keeps in his heart a deadly fear-load stirring

At all pure joys with fiendish talon snatches,
The noblest traits from out his being catches;
Each beam and hope and vision darkens,
His conscience stuns whene'er towards heaven be hearkens

On goading thorns his sleepless longing tosses,
With soul remorse-foam pleasure's waves embosses.
Sometimes from phantom-fears impels him flying,
Sometimes in frantic horrors shrouds his dying

Now turns his dearest friends to cease to love him,
Now spreads avenging Siva's form above him;
Makes this world black with prison walls and gibbets,
And in the next escape from hell prohibits.

The whole creation's strange and endless dealing,
In spite of shields and veils and arts concealing,
Proclaims that whosoe'er is long a sinner
Can only be by it of woe a winner." D.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.

WEB: Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.

The History of Athaliah
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