2 Kings 11

Athaliah

Athaliah was a granddaughter of Omri, daughter of Ahab, sister of Jehoram of Israel, wife of Jehoram of Judah, and mother of Ahaziah. She had other sons of whom the greater part, no doubt, were from other mothers, for there were forty‑two of them (2 Kings 10: 14). We are told concerning them and their mother: "For the wicked Athaliah and her sons had devastated the house of God; and also all the hal­lowed things of the house of Jehovah had they employed for the Baals" (2 Chr. 24: 7). Is it astonishing that God should have permitted their extermination by Jehu? When Athaliah learned of the death of her son Ahaziah (the king's brothers had, as we have seen, suffered the same fate be­fore he did), this ambitious woman, without scruples and without natural affection, put to death all the king's sons-her own grandsons-in order to secure the kingdom for her­self. God's judgment passed like a tempestuous wind sweep­ing away everything in Israel and Judah. The instruments of this judgment were the fleshly zeal of Jehu and the in­iquity of Athaliah's idolatrous heart. Both produced the same result, massacre and murder. These instruments, especially Athaliah, imagined that they were thereby ac­complishing their plans, but in the final analysis, they were only the sword of the Lord to vindicate the holiness of his character by this extermination. Moreover, God will break the sword when it will have finished its work and will show in breaking it that He is a righteous God who does not leave crime unpunished.

The royal house of Israel is destroyed without leaving a single man, and God begins the trial of His patience again with a new dynasty, that of Jehu. But it is not so with the house of Judah. The faithful God keeps His word, for He had said that He would give David "always a lamp for his sons" (2 Kings 8: 19). In the person of Joash He sustains for Him­self a feeble candle stub which He does not extinguish, and through whom an era of blessing and of the fear of the Lord would be inaugurated for the kingdom of Judah. The long­suffering of God still delayed the moment of rejecting His guilty people.

Jehosheba, the daughter of Jehoram of Judah and sister of Ahaziah, the wife of Jehoiada the high priest, steals Joash away from the massacre of the king's sons and hides her nephew with her in the house of the Lord for six years, that is, in the part of the house of the Lord where her hus­band and the priests dwelt.

The presence of the seed of David manifests that which was according to the heart of the Lord in Judah. Around the anointed is grouped and concentrated everything that could work together for the restoration of the people. Despite all the disorder, the place where the Lord had made His name to dwell still existed, and the king was there se­curely under His safe‑keeping And, what is more, a faithful high priest could walk before the face of His anointed and regulate all things according to God's mind, the secret of which he had, even in the absence of a recognized royalty.

In the seventh year, true year of jubilee and of deliverance, Jehoiada presents the king's son to the officers of the army. He sets them, with most minute precautions, over the safe‑keeping of this sacred person, this precious jewel, without which the house of David would be extinguished. No profane person could approach this inviolable person without incurring death; his bodyguards accompany him upon his entering and his exiting. One feels that Jehoiada's heart is aflame for the son of David, his only hope and that of the kingdom, to lose him would be to lose all, and he did not want to be deprived of him at any cost.

Is not Jehoiada an example for us? Will we suffer in this difficult time, more perilous, despite all appearances, than that of Athaliah, that anyone touch the person of the Son of God? Let us surround Him, every one with his weapon in his hand. Our weapons are not carnal; they are the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Let us press together around Him, be we but a few, and God will be with us as He was with the faithful group that surrounded Joash, and the efforts of the enemy to destroy the name of the holy Son of God and to destroy his testimony will be foiled.

Jehoiada, to defend the kingship, has recourse to David's weapons. "And the priest gave to the captains of the hundreds king David's spears and shields which were in the house of Jehovah" (v. 10). Thus he returned to the origin of the divine institution of the kingship. These weapons were good and were kept in the house of God. So we too must defend "that which was from the beginning." We do not seek this Word in human arsenals, but in the temple of God. It is hidden there in the most holy place, where the Spirit of God alone is able to reveal it to us and make us take hold of it.

Then they bring Joash out to the entrance of the house, into its court. The king's son has upon himself the anointing oil which consecrates him; the crown, sign of his royal dignity; and "the testimony," the law, which the king, seated upon his throne, was to copy out for himself and from which he was to learn to fear the Lord and to keep His statutes (Deut. 17: 18‑20).

In spite of the surrounding poverty and the invasion of apostasy, what, in fact, was wanting for this restoration? The temple of God, His habitation in the midst of His own, was there; the high priest, the mediator between the Lord and the people, was there; the son of David was there, doubtless recognized only by some, but soon to be acclaimed by all the people; the anointing, the Holy Spirit, was there; and a feeble remnant acclaimed the anointed of the Lord and surrounded him, just as David's mighty men had at one time surrounded the king.

To Athaliah (vv. 13‑16), the restoration of the kingship according to God was a conspiracy. She cries, "Conspiracy,'" as Jehoram of Israel had cried, "Treason." Neither the one nor the other could assert their rights for a moment. Jehoram falls under the rod of God. Athaliah cannot assert any claim to these rights when the chosen of the Lord is made manifest. So it will be for Christ's enemies before the judgment and before the appearing of the glory of His kingdom. But what joy for the heart of Jehoiada and his faithful wife! They had waited patiently through a full cycle of years for the Lord's time to manifest His anointed; they did not allow themselves to become discouraged nor pressed by impatience into using human means to bring about the triumph of the king's cause. During these long years, they had lived in secret with the precious object of their hope, and at last they were receiving the glorious result of their faith. Let us imitate their patience. Our Joash is still in the secret place of the sanctuary. Let us there learn from day to day and from year to year to know Him better. May He increase in our eyes. Soon He shall appear, and all shall rejoice in this sight; but even today some, like Jehoiada and his wife, because they have dwelt with Him while He was not yet visible, will have been showing forth, while awaiting His glory, the bright rays of His dawning, like the morning star arisen in their hearts!

"And Jehoiada made a covenant between Jehovah and the king and the people, that they should be the people of Jehovah; and between the king and the people" (v. 17). A covenant supposes two parties: here, under the law, they engage themselves mutually, the Lord on the one side, the king and the people on the other. It is as if the king were answering for the people and the people for the king, as forming but one whole in relation to the Lord. But this engagement is rendered yet the more solemn by the covenant between the king and the people. They mutually engage themselves to follow the same path. "Then all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and broke it down: his altars and his images they broke in pieces completely, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars" (v. 18). It is a community of zeal for God. There is no need for the subtlety and artifices of Jehu (2 Kings 10: 18‑27) to extirpate Baal from Judah. One sees here the powerful action of the Spirit of God in a people-much more blessed, in sum, than the action of a single individual, even when in fact, he is accomplishing the will of God. Jehu had conceived his plan by himself alone and had confided its execution to guards and to captains. Here, the whole people, laying claim to their title as the people of the Lord, intimately bound to the king whom God had given them, extirpate Baal, his house and his worship; and for about 180 years, until the reign of ungodly Manasseh, this abominable idolatry disappears from the house of Judah.

Jehu had assembled all the people to speak to them with subtlety, doubtless not having confidence in their disposition. Here the people act in virtue of the covenant, and that is where it must begin. Jehu's zeal had not reestablished the covenant, though destroying Baal, and it goes no further than that. The ancient idolatry, Jeroboam's calves, exists for him, whereas the new idolatry has been extirpated. It is always thus when the flesh has a part in reform. It cannot remedy that abandoning of God which has characterized it from the beginning; otherwise it would no longer be the flesh. The natural man (and this takes place under our eyes every day), may well extirpate an idol, whether it be wine or any other vice, only to replace it with and to bring all the more into relief the idolatry of self, his own self‑righteousness, and his want of conscience with regard to God, a God whom he pretends, like Jehu, to serve with zeal.

Athaliah is led into the king's house by the way of the horse-gate, there to be put to death. Joash enters by another gate, that of the couriers, that he might sit peacefully upon the throne of David. The path to this throne must not be defiled by blood. It was not so for Jehu with relation to Jezebel. Her blood was sprinkled upon the wall and upon the horses, and Jehu, trampling her underfoot, entered into the house to eat and to drink (2 Kings 9: 33‑34). All this scene, though decreed by God, breathes "the fury" of him who is its author. In Judah, all takes places in solemn calm and in the consciousness of the presence of God, maintained by the high priest. It is with the Lord that souls have to do, for Him that they act, His honor that they seek, for, without these motives there could never be purification or complete restoration. In Judah this presence of God acting upon the conscience of the people brings, after purification, a blessed result. "All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet" (v. 20). Joy and peace are the portion of the souls who, in order to please God and serve Him, have separated them­selves from that which dishonors Him.