2 Kings 8:18, 26
2 Kings 11:1-3, 13-16
2 Chronicles 21:6
2 Chronicles 22:2-4, 10-12
2 Chronicles 23:12-15,21
2 Chronicles 24:7
Background: Around 842 – 837 BC
Jehosaphat, king of Judah, worked most of his life to make peace between the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab the king of Israel was married to Jehosaphat's son Jehoram as a poltical alliance. Jehosaphat was a righteous king who walked in the ways of the Lord, but he didn't cleanse his land of idolatry and false worship (1 Kings 22:43). Nevertheless, his kingdom still enjoyed much much peace and prosperity. Jehoshaphat reigned for twenty-five years and died at the age of sixty (1 Kings 22:50). His son Jehoram reigned after him, but did not walk in the ways of the Lord (1 Kings 22:53).
Facts about her:
- She was the daughter of the wicked Israelite king Ahab and queen Jezebel (2 Chr. 21:6);
- Like her mother Jezebel she was a devoted follower of Baal and introduced his worship into the Southern kingdom, much like her mother had done in the Northern Kingdom (2 Chr. 24:7) ;
- After taking the throne Jehoram killed his 6 younger brothers and other princes of Israel (2 Chr. 21:4);
- She was widowed after 8 years of being queen when her husband was cursed with an incurable disease that after two years made his bowels fall out (2 Chr. 21:18-19);
- Her son Ahaziah became the next king of Judah(2 Chr. 22:2-4);
- She was her son's counselor and caused him to do evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Chr. 22:2-4) ;
- Her son reigned for one year and then was killed by Jehu (2 Chr. 22: 7-9);
- After her son died she killed all the seed royal of the house of Judah, including her sons and grandsons (2 Kgs. 11:1-3; 2 Chr. 22:10-12) ;
- One grandson, Joash, was saved by his aunt (the daughter of Athaliah) Jehoshabeath who hid him for seven years in the temple (her husband was Jehoiada the priest) ( 2 Chr. 22:10-12) ;
- She was the only woman, before and after, to ever sit upon the throne of David, and she reigned for six years;
- After seven years Jehoiada, without the knowledge of Athaliah, crowned and anointed eight-year-old Joash as king of Judah in front of the people (2 Kgs. 11: 4-12 , 2 Chr. 23:1-11);
- Athaliah heard the noise and ran from her palace to see what was happening. When she got to the temple and saw her grandson she rent her clothes and cried "treason, treason" ( 2 Kg 11:13-16; 2 Chr. 23:12-15);
- She was forced out the temple, because Jehoiada didn't want her to defile the temple by being killed in it ( 2 Kg 11:13-16, 2 Chr. 23:12-15);
- She was pursued by soldiers and "she went by the
way by the which the horses came into the king’s house: and there was she slain"( 2 Kg 11:13-16, 2 Chr. 23:12-15);
- The people rejoiced after she was killed (2 Chr. 23:21);
- After her death they tore down all worship of Baal throughout the country (2 Chr. 23:17-20).
Speculations about her:
- Some bible scholars think she might have been Ahab's sister instead of his daughter;
- She probably married Jehoram as a political alliance between Israel and Judah;
- She, like her mother Jezebel, was thought to have an incredibly strong and demanding personality and greatly influenced her husband's decisions;
- She probably influenced her husband to kill his 6 younger brothers after assuming the throne, seeing as she had no qualms about killing her grandchildren when she took the throne;
- In 2 Chronicles 24:7 it sounds like she had parts of the holy temple pulled down and used to build a temple for Baal;
- Josephus (Ant., IX, vii, 3) mentions that her guards had somehow been prevented from following her to the temple when Jehoash was made king. This shows that there was probably great collaboration among the people to see her killed.
Amidst all the blood and gloom of this story, one woman sticks out to me like a shining star-- Jehosheba, Athaliah's daughter who rescued baby Joash and hid him for seven years. I am really impressed by her (I think she will get her own post, some day) because she has such a horrible mother and yet exhibits so much compassion and love. Not only did she rescue the infant Joash from amidst the bodies of his slain brothers (who knows maybe he was half dead himself) but she took care of the boy like her own for seven years. Also, she was married to the priest of the temple, obviously indicating that despite her mother's worship of Baal she had the insight and the faith to follow the true and living God.
I just can't help but wonder what her life must have been like. Athaliah's life was just a hideous repeat of her mother Jezebel's life, filled with idol worship, death, blood, hatred and deception. Yet, Jehosheba was somehow able to break out of her family's dysfunctional patterns and become a remarkable woman of faith. She gives me hope. To know that with the guidance of the holy spirit, women don't have to repeat the mistakes of their mothers or grandmothers made and can forage new lives for them and their families.
What we can learn from her:
- Women can be every bit as power crazy, tyrannical, and cruel as men... maybe even more so;
- Women have great influence over their husbands and sons and can use that influence for great good or great evil;
- Daughters often follow after the examples of their mothers, and without the guidance of the Holy Spirit often make the same tragic mistakes;
- Even daughters with horrible, awful, wicked mothers can make good decisions, live righteous lives, have good marriages, and bring much good to the world;
- When God is involved, dysfunctional families don't always result in dysfunctional children.
- What could possibly bring a woman to murder her children and grandchildren?
- How do you think her daughter, Jehosheba, managed to become a righteous woman?
- How do you think idol worship influenced Athaliah's actions?