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Joash, the Boy King

J Gibson, Derby

2 Kings 11-12; 2 Chr 22.10-24.27

The slaughter (2 Kings 11.1-3; 2 Chr 22.10-12)

They "destroyed all the seed royal" (2 Chr 22.10). The royal family had been severely weakened. Jehoram had murdered his own brothers, Jehoshaphat’s sons (2 Chr 21.4); Philistines and Arabians had killed all of Ahaziah’s elder brothers (2 Chr 21.16-17; 22.1); Jehu, while "executing judgment upon the house of Ahab", massacred Ahaziah and his nephews (2 Chr 22.8-9). And now Athaliah, driven on by burning ambition and dismissive of natural ties, in attempting to exterminate the royal seed slew her own grandchildren. How many children have been sacrificed in the thirst for power? And yet God providentially spared baby Joash, in whom the messianic line now depended. Be assured, no matter how dark the days appear God is still on His throne and His word secure. Jehosheba, baby Joash’s aunt, King Ahaziah’s sister and priest Jehoiada’s wife, saved the young child, initially hiding "him and his nurse in a bedchamber" and then "in the house of God six years". There is no safer place on earth than God’s house: "For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock" (Ps 27.5).

The Coronation (2 Kings 11.4-21; 2 Chr 23)

They "put upon him the crown" (2 Chr 23.11). The establishment of seven-year-old Joash as king (2 Kings 1.21) demanded a decisive manoeuvre so well led, highly motivated, and precisely coordinated that it would completely catch Athaliah off guard. Godly priest Jehoiada was the man for the moment, his great driving force being the word of God: "Behold, the king’s son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the sons of David" (2 Chr 23.3). He gathered the following influential allies, taking them into his confidence:

These military and religious personnel – Kings emphasises military involvement; Chronicles highlights the role of priests and Levites – worked together in a synchronised and powerful effort to enthrone the young king. Everyone had a specific part to play. Priests and Levites spent one week shifts ministering in the temple, only to be replaced each Sabbath day (2 Chr 23.4; 2 Kings 11.7). Therefore, Jehoiada’s two main divisions of priests and Levites were those entering and those leaving on the Sabbath. They who entered God’s house on that particular Sabbath defended the temple exterior. These were divided into three main sections: one third kept "the watch of the king’s house [the palace]" (2 Kings 11.5); one third guarded "the gate of Sur [or the foundation]" (2 Kings 11.6; 2 Chr 23.5); one third stood "at the gate behind the runners" (2 Kings 11.6, YLT) "which probably formed the principal access from the palace into the Temple [see 2 Kings 11.19]".1 The company leaving the temple on the Sabbath defended Joash inside (2 Kings 11.7-11; 2 Chr 23.6-10). Split into two groups and armed with King David’s weapons (spears, shields, and bucklers) they surrounded Joash, ready to kill anyone who entered the temple and infiltrated their ranks. God’s house can be a place of righteous conflict, where the truth of God should be defended at all costs. The Christian’s weapons are neither carnal, nor new, but those that have survived the test of time: the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, prayer, fellowship with saints etc.

Joash was crowned, anointed, and finally enthroned. Since God’s law was the rule of life for Jewish kings (Deut 17.18-20), they handed him the testimony. He was to write it out, read it daily, and "keep all the words of this law." Athaliah was executed and the people rejoiced (2 Kings 11.20; 2 Chr 23.21).

Several significant reforms were connected to Joash’s coronation. First, Judah renewed her commitment to Jehovah. This was done by entering into a covenant with Him (2 Kings 11.17; 2 Chr 23.16) and also by breaking down Baal’s house, altars and images, and even slaying Mattan the priest of Baal (2 Kings 11.18; 2 Chr 23.17). Second, in obedience to Mosaic Law, and in accordance with King David’s previous legislation (1 Chr 23-27), joyful orderly worship was recommenced (2 Chr 23.18-19). Third, since holiness becomes God’s house (Ps 93.5), Jehoiada "set the porters at the gates of the house of the Lord, that none which was unclean in any thing should enter in" (2 Chr 23.19). The same wholehearted commitment to the Lord, obedience to His Word, and purity should be found in Christian churches today.

The Temple (2 Kings 12.1-16; 2 Chr 24.1-14)

He set out to "to repair the house of the Lord" (2 Chr 24.4). Joash’s early years showed potential. Despite his youth, he was steered in the right direction by Jehoiada the priest and eagerly set about repairing God’s house, which Athaliah’s wicked sons had damaged. His charge to priests and Levites regarding the collection, though tainted with impatience, gave opportunity to all of Judah’s cities to contribute. It had a scriptural foundation: (2 Chr 24.6). There were three main sources of revenue (2 Kings 12.4): census offerings (Ex 30.11-16; Num 18.15-16); vow offerings (Lev 27; Num 30); voluntary offerings. The trespass and sin offerings were not, however, for the house, but continued to be the priests’ portion (Lev 5.16; Num.5.9; 2 Kings 12.16).

Having charged the priests, "see that ye hasten the matter" (2 Chr 24.5), Joash was understandably displeased at their delay. He therefore removed this responsibility from them (2 Kings 12.7-9). Although it remains unclear what actually caused the priests’ delay, in the long term it was Jehoiada (2 Chr 24.16) and not Joash who was truly zealous for God’s house. We must never confuse youthful energy with genuine spiritual interest: "judge nothing before the time" (1 Cor 4.5). The people gave with such joy and generosity that the money chest was soon full – compare the abundance in the time of Moses (Ex 36.3-6). Once sufficient funds were available, masons, hewers in stone, carpenters and such as wrought in iron and brass were employed to restore the temple. The New Testament compares a local assembly to a building requiring skilled workmanship (1 Cor 3.10).

The Departure (2 Kings 12.17-21; 2 Chr 24.15-27)

"They left the house" (2 Chr 24.18). Judah and Joash "offered burnt offerings in the house of the Lord continually all the days of Jehoiada" (2 Chr 24.14). However, after Jehoiada’s death the princes of Judah, who clearly did not share his allegiance to Jehovah, easily enticed feeble Joash into leaving the house in favour of "Asherahs and idols" (2 Chr 24.18, JND). The fact that godly Jehoiada had lived 130 years (the longest life over the previous 1,000 years of Biblical history) was a witness to God’s goodness to Judah in giving them a strong leader for so long a time. Jehoiada, well remembered for his goodness to God and His house, was buried with kings.

In response to their apostasy Jehovah sent prophets to bring them back to Himself (2 Chr 24.19-22; Mt 23.35; Lk 11.51). Among these was Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son. The New Testament refers to him as the son of Barachias. This name, meaning "the blessed of the Lord", may have been an affectionate nickname for Jehoiada, or might indicate an unnamed generation between Jehoiada and Zechariah. Empowered by the Spirit, Zechariah spoke with the authoritative, "Thus saith God", teaching the impossibility of prospering while transgressing God’s commands, and forcibly reminded Judah that God had now forsaken them because they had first forsaken Him. Joash, who had received such kindness from Zechariah’s father now ordered his stoning, and perhaps even that of his siblings (2 Chr 24.25), reminding us that people quickly forget kindness shown to them. Zechariah was stoned "between the temple and the altar" (Mt 23.35; Lk 11.51) – the most sacred part of the temple court – reflecting Joash’s disrespect for God’s house, in contrast to Jehoiada’s care to ensure that Athaliah was not slain within the temple. Zechariah’s closing words, "the Lord look upon it, and require it", though so different from those of the Lord Jesus and Stephen, the first Christian martyr, were nonetheless answered: Joash was slain by his own servants, thus reaping what he sowed. Zechariah is considered the last Old Testament prophet to be murdered (Mt 23.35).

Joash’s idolatry so provoked God’s wrath (2 Chr 24.18) that He caused a Syrian invasion (2 Kings 12.17-18; 2 Chr 24.23-24). Having defeated Gath, probably still a Judean city (2 Chr 11.8), Hazael, the Syrian king, now "set his face to go up to Jerusalem" (2 Kings 12.17), and with a small force overcame it because God delivered them into his hands (2 Chr 24.23-24; Deut 32.30). The faithless princes, who had instigated the apostasy, were destroyed (2 Chr 24.23), Judah was spoiled, and Joash himself wounded (2 Chr 24.25). A complete overthrow was only avoided by Joash placating the Syrian king with all the treasures of the king’s house and the temple (2 Kings 12.18).

In summary, this exciting story proves that God is able to fulfil His word, teaches that young men should have good role models, but that this can never replace a personal and lasting zeal for God.


1 Edersheim A. Bible History Old Testament.


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