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This chapter records first those careful preparations of Jehoiada which eventuated in the safe proclaiming of Joash king (2 Chronicles 23:1-11); then the tragic demonstration and tragic end of Athaliah (2 Chronicles 23:12-15); and lastly, the beneficent action of Jehoiada over people and king, to the complete restoration of the worship and temple-services of the true God (2 Chronicles 23:16-21). The chapter is very closely paralleled by 2 Kings 11:4-21; while the characteristic and to be expected differences on the part of our text are very conspicuous. These will be noted as they occur. While each compiler so definitely keeps on that side of the line which answers the main purpose of his history, in the abundant material common to both, and to which both resorted, all harmonizes still with the supposed objects of the two works respectively.
2 Chronicles 23:1
Jehoiada strengthened himself (see our note, 2 Chronicles 12:1; 2 Chronicles 13:7). He nerved himself with courage, and that courage which results from conviction of duty and of ripe time to achieve it. The captains of hundreds (or, centurions of the royal guards) are not mentioned in the parallel by name, but the significant mention there (2 Kings 11:5-7) of five detachments (three "third parts," plus "two parts" of another body) tally with the number five, who are here mentioned by name. The five detachments probably summed up a force of nominally five hundred. It is interesting to note how often high religious enterprises have been due to the trusting mutual co-operation of very few to begin with, and them awakened and led by one. Of no one of these five named here is anything known more to his honour than this—that his name is here recorded. It is said with the most perfect simplicity of even Hebrew language, that he took them with him in covenant.
2 Chronicles 23:2
No mention is made in the parallel of the Levites, whom our writer is sure to signalize. The fathers of Israel. The sacredness of the phrase made it dear, above the narrowness of the distinctive appellation Judah, though the worthies all were gathered, as just;implied, out of "Judah."
2 Chronicles 23:3
All the congregation; i.e. all who have been mentioned in 2 Chronicles 23:1 and 2 Chronicles 23:2; for so the parallel makes plain. Made a covenant. This was the second wider and more embracing covenant. This covenant is between all the gathered representatives and the young king, Jehoiada no doubt putting all things into shape. And he said unto them, Behold, the king's son shall reign. The he is Jehoiada, as of course. In view of the last clause of 2 Chronicles 23:4—in the parallel, "Jehoiada showed them the king's son "—the likelier rendering of our text here is, Behold the king's son; he shall reign, as, etc. As the Lord hath said of the sons of David (see 2 Chronicles 6:16; 2Ch 7:18; 2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Kings 2:4; 1 Kings 9:5). The hereditary nature of the monarchy (2 Samuel 7:1-29.), pervaded ever by the spirit of the covenant, is evidently glanced at. It is probable that the existence of Joash was news to those to whom Jehoiada, as the parallel has it, "showed … the king's son," so that double significance lies in the word "showed."
2 Chronicles 23:4
The first thing that is to be observed is the distinct and repeated mention of the Levites, as those on whom the critical and onerous service that came of Jehoiada's resolution was devolved, while the parallel does not so much as mention them. It may next be noted that our first and second verses state the part that "the captains of hundreds" were called to perform in collecting the requisite number of Levites from the provincial cities of Judah. And once more it may be noted that whereas, while we abide close by our own text alone, nothing in the description of our 2 Chronicles 23:4-10 occasions material difficulty, even when the perplexity, which is considerable, does enter, on consulting and endeavouring to reconcile the parallel, it is with extreme probability due to our not making sufficient allowance for the fact that the matter of the two accounts does not so much offer itself for reconciliation as for concurrent acceptance. We have now to follow the description of our own text. Of you entering on the sabbath; i.e. of you who enter on your period of duty on such a sabbath. See 2 Chronicles 23:8, the "men that were to come in on the sabbath, with them that were to go out on the sabbath." This alludes, as the next clause definitely says, to the weekly courses of the Levites, as described in 1 Chronicles 9:25; 1 Chronicles 24:1-31.; 1 Chronicles 25:0.—the incoming and outgoing companies. Porters of the doors; i.e. "keepers of the doors of the temple" (1 Chronicles 9:19). This may correspond with the middle clause of 1 Chronicles 24:6 in the parallel.
2 Chronicles 23:5
A third part … at the king's house. It seems impossible to refer this to the royal palace, as some suppose from 2 Chronicles 23:19 in the parallel. It probably designates the place where the child had been living in concealment. This portion of the description appears to correspond with the last clause of 2 Chronicles 23:5 in the parallel. At the gate of the foundation. The Hebrew text here is יְסוֹד (Exodus 29:12; Le Exodus 4:7; Habakkuk 3:13); in the parallel סוּר, a name only found there, and unintelligible—probably a corruption of the other word. The gate of the foundation is supposed to have stood at that corner of the area which was strengthened by additional works, where was the ravine separating Moriah and the hill to the south. All the people. Evidently the miscellaneous outside people are not here intended, who were not entrusted with the secret and the surprise that was to be, but the same all the people as are unmistakably designated in 2 Chronicles 23:10; i.e. all who were appointed to officiate. The last clause in each of 2 Chronicles 23:5, 2 Chronicles 23:6, 2 Chronicles 23:7 in the parallel go strongly to confirm the position that" the king's house "so far does not intend the royal palace, but such part of the house of the Lord as had been, and then still was, "about the king" (2 Chronicles 23:7, parallel); in order to keep watch "about the king,' they were set to keep watch of a certain part of "the house of the Lord."
2 Chronicles 23:6
But let none come … save the priests. Through this little chink we get some light confirmatory of the concurrent jurisdiction of the account in the parallel The express caution of this clause shows that there were others about, and others officiating, beside the Levites, who only have been mentioned hitherto in our text, except under the most generic designation (as before, so again in last clause of this verse) of "all the people." The last clause of this verse may cover the contents of 2 Chronicles 23:7 in the parallel. The distinction between "the courts of the house of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 23:5), and "the house of the Lord" (2 Chronicles 23:6) is, of course, quite apparent.
2 Chronicles 23:7
And the Levites shall compass the king. The matter of 2 Chronicles 23:8 in the parallel suggests nothing inconsistent with the express mention of the Levites here, but rather that the word "Levites" is desiderated there, and its significance perhaps accidentally overlooked, when the writer of Kings was using the original authorities and sources of his history.
2 Chronicles 23:8
All Judah; i.e. all those of Judah's provincial cities who had been honoured with summons to join in this great and solemn enterprise. Dismissed not the courses; i.e. the provincial Levites cooperated with the regulars of Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 23:9
Shields … King David's … in the house of God. Some think these may have been the shields of gold that King David took from the servants of Hadadezer (2 Samuel 8:7, 2 Samuel 8:11).
2 Chronicles 23:10
All the people; i.e; again, all those, not being Levites and priests, who had been trusted to assist. The parallel (2 Chronicles 23:11) summarizes them under the name the guard. It may be just noted, in passing, that, while the Hebrew text has in both places "shoulder," i.e. for the "side" of this verse, and the "corner" of the parallel, the Revised Version has harmonized the rendering, electing the rendering side. From the right side of the temple to the left side. This is equivalent to saying, those composing the guard were placed on the south and north sides. Along by the altar. This was the altar of burnt offerings in front of the perch, and close by which the young "king stood at his pillar," or on his pedestal (2 Chronicles 23:13), the rows of the guard bristling with weapons before and behind and round about him.
2 Chronicles 23:11
Then they brought out. The parallel (2 Chronicles 23:12) has, "he brought out," etc. The last clause of our verse harmonizes even this simple point, indicating that the "they" designates "Jehoiada and his sons;" of which group Jehoiada himself was, of course, the greatest part. It will be noted that it is not said from what exact place Joash was brought out. Put upon him the crown and … the testimony. It is quite unnecessary, at any rate, to suppose that the testimony, as well as the crown, was put on the head of Joash. It may be taken for granted that the testimony was put into his hands (Deuteronomy 17:18-20; Deuteronomy 31:24-29). If something new and so out of the way as resting the testimony (i.e. the book of the Law) on the head were purported, it is likely that a distincter point would have been made of it. God save the king! Hebrew, יחְיִ הַמֶּלֶךְ: "Let the king live!" (1 Samuel 10:24; 2 Samuel 16:16; 1Ki 1:25, 1 Kings 1:31, 1 Kings 1:34, 1 Kings 1:39).
2 Chronicles 23:12
When Athaliah heard the noise. The parallel (2 Kings 11:13-16) shows only two differences of any noteworthiness, and these will come under notice next verse. The noise; Hebrew, the voice; i.e. no doubt the voices of the people. Praising. The Hebrew is the piel participle; our corresponding phrase would be, "singing out the praises of the king," i.e. not any personal praises, but such as the cries of "Long live the king!" or, as our Authorized Version has it, "God save the king I"
2 Chronicles 23:13
At his pillar (see note on 2 Chronicles 23:10). At the entering in. The parallel (2 Kings 11:14) has "as the manner was" (כַּמִּשְׁפָּט vice בַּמָּבוֹא). The reading in the parallel is quite explainable by such references as 2 Kings 23:3; 2 Chronicles 34:31). Such as taught. Piel participle of יָדַע; the meaning here probably being not literally the teaching confraternity as such, but the leaders, and in particular those who were appointed on this occasion to lead. Treason! קֶשֶׁר; interesting references are 2 Samuel 15:12; 1 Kings 16:20; Isaiah 8:12; Jeremiah 11:9; Ezekiel 22:25. The idea of the word is conspiracy, and Athaliah's eye read this at once, and not less promptly, that it amounted to treason to her.
2 Chronicles 23:14
Brought out, וַיּוֹצֵא, for "commanded" in the parallel, וַיְחּו; and this is probably right, the Hebrew in our text probably a clerical or copyist's error. The ranges; שְׂדֵרוֹת. This word is found only in three other places, viz. twice in the parallel (its 2 Chronicles 23:8, 2 Chronicles 23:15), Revised Version "ranks," and in 1 Kings 6:9, where it is rendered in the Authorized Version "the boards," but in the Revised Version "the planks," and margin "rows." The ranges are commonly supposed to mean the ranks or rows of soldiers. The Vulgate has understood them to mean the precincts of the temple. The indications of the remarkable but not uncommon prepositional expression, אֶל־מִבֵּית (enjoying the analogy of ether compounded prepositional expressions, as אֶל־מִחוּץ אֶל־מִגֶּגֶן) favours the idea that Jehoiada said, Have her forth from inside "the house of the Lord" (1 Kings 6:12), to within your ranks, and there take care to make a way for her, no one with immature zeal following to slay her there, at the jeopardy of his own life, for under no case let her be slain in the house of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 23:16
Between him. The Revised Version reads "himself," which is the evident meaning. The parallel leaves out, however, mention of Jehoiada as party to the covenant, viewing him rather as the promoter of it.
2 Chronicles 23:17
The house of Baal. It becomes plain that some building had been actually reared alongside, so to say, of the very temple itself, for Baal. Slew Mattan (Deuteronomy 13:6, Deuteronomy 13:9). Brake … his images; Hebrew, צְלָמָיו; this is the more pronounced word, distinguished from מַחְּבוֹת.
2 Chronicles 23:18
Jehoiada appointed; i.e. reappointed or restored. The offices; פְקֻדוֹת. Numbers 3:32, Numbers 3:36; Numbers 4:16; Numbers 16:29; 1 Chronicles 23:11; 1Ch 24:3, 1 Chronicles 24:19; 1 Chronicles 26:30; 2 Chronicles 17:14; 2 Chronicles 23:18; 2 Chronicles 24:11; 2 Chronicles 26:11; see also Psalms 109:8; Isaiah 10:3 (comp. Job 10:12). The priests. There should, no doubt, be found the conjunction "and" after this word and before "the Levites," whom David had distributed (so 1 Chronicles 24:1-19; 1 Chronicles 25:8-31). In the Law of Moses (Numbers 18:1-7; 38:2). With rejoicing … singing … David (1 Chronicles 23:5; 1 Chronicles 25:1, 1Ch 25:2, 1 Chronicles 25:5-7; and our 2 Chronicles 29:25-30).
2 Chronicles 23:19
The porters (1 Chronicles 26:1-12).
2 Chronicles 23:20
The high gate. There is some doubt as to what this gate was, whether the temple gate of 2 Chronicles 27:3, the chief gate of the outer court, or whether it was merely a palace gate, and not identified also with the precincts of the temple. It is called in the parallel "the gate of the guard."
2Ch 23:1 -25
The time of action, after six years' waiting.
In the first verse of this chapter, so full of the indications of the ruling providence of God, alike in his raising up a priest like Jehoiada, and in the marriage alliance which Jehoiada had formed with the sister of the king, we are told that this priest "strengthened himself," or took courage, and proceeded also therewith to take measures to bring the hidden heir to the throne to light, and to place on his head the crown. It is not necessary to understand this to imply that courage had been lacking to him before for this work, but that, till the time was ripe, he had not girded himself to the enterprise. We may notice—
I. THE PATIENT WAITING OF JEHOIADA. To men of action, waiting is a hard task. Possibly simply the infancy and youngest childhood of Joash advised that waiting. How could the scene have been made one-half as effective as it was while Joash was but an infant? But there may have been other reasons, and some of them easily imaginable, in the state and temper of the kingdom, for the delay. Six years, at any rate, did he "rest, and the seventh" he rose up to work—six years, not one of which was free from anxiety and danger. Many a time must he have turned over the whole matter in thought, and prayed over it, and with his God-fearing wife developed the plan till now the seventh year came.
II. THE WISE ACTION OF JEHOIADA. As politician, statesman, Churchman, he is a good example. By concerting methods of proceeding with ever-widening circles of co-operation (the captains of hundreds, the Levites, the chiefs of the fathers, etc; 2 Chronicles 23:1, 2 Chronicles 23:2), he obviates the danger and almost the possibility of any breakdown; he gains sympathy; he gives to enthusiasm its natural springs, and to public spirit legitimate impulse, and so carries all to a successful issue.
III. THE RELIGIOUS SERVICE OBSERVED, AND THE DISTINCTNESS AND DIRECTNESS WITH WHICH THE PRINCIPLE AND SANCTION OF RELIGION WERE INTRODUCED INTO THE WHOLE PROCEEDING. The meeting ("congregation") gathered in the house of the Lord. The meeting made a "covenant" with the king there—ha challenging it, evidently. And the priest, faithful to his knowledge, and faithful to his own faith, lays down distinctly the common ground and the sacred bond of their co-operation: "Behold, the king's son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the sons of David" (2 Chronicles 23:3).
IV. THE MODEL RELIGIOUS CARE WITH WHICH THE HOUSE OF GOD WAS GUARDED AGAINST ANY ACCIDENTAL PROFANATION. The priests and Levites on the one hand, and the people on the other hand, all had their places and work assigned to them, with every precaution and warning (2 Chronicles 23:6-10).
V. THE CEREMONY OF THE CORONATION, WITH ITS CENTRAL FEATURE—AN ALMOST SACRAMENTAL CELEBRATION—OF THE TESTIMONY LAID UPON THE KING. Whether, as some think, that with the crown of gold, the testimony, the hook of the Law, was for a moment rested upon his head—the better crown by far of the two—or whether it was put into his hands, is very immaterial. The act was a most suggestive one, and a most impressive one, and one which, to the end of the life of Joash, now so young, might well be a memory of real religious usefulness. We do not read of any previous instance of the kind. It may be that it was thought of as a remembrancer specially suited to the very tender age of the young king.
VI. THE EVIL-DOING OF ATHALIAH NOW AT LAST SILENCED FOR EVER. The voice of priest and people was one now. And the voice of these was also one with the voice of God. And too surely, even if it were the first time, for "so long a time," the voice of fear and of conscience spoke at one, from the lips of the doomed woman Athaliah.
VII. THE VOWS TAKEN AFRESH HEREUPON BY HIMSELF AND ALL THE PEOPLE AND THE RING. These vows were in the shape, apparently, of a covenant—the contracting parties being the priest in the name of the Lord his God on the one side, and on the other the people and the king (2 Chronicles 23:16). Are we not forcibly reminded here how right it is and how needful that the servants of God, in the sense of being public ministers of his truth, of religion, of the Church, should feel it their solemn duty not only to give instruction and the best of it, but to make earnest appeal to the people, and from time to time urge and lovingly challenge them to decision in matters of their religious life?
VIII. THE WORK OF PRACTICAL REFORMATION AT ONCE BEGUN, THE PEACE OF THE LAND ENGAGED IN THAT WORK, AND THE GLADNESS OF THE WHOLE PEOPLE IN IT.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 23:1-11
The constituents of success.
It was no light work that Jehoiada had in hand. He had need to "strengthen himself," as we are told that he did (2 Chronicles 23:1). To effect a revolution in a kingdom is either a very guilty or a very noble deed. It can only be justified by the most grave conditions and by a reasonable prospect of success. When, as on this occasion, it is imperatively demanded, and when, as now, it is boldly and effectively accomplished, a very great work of patriotism and philanthropy is wrought; and it is not only man who is served, but God also. On the other hand, to undertake such an achievement without adequate cause and without sufficient means, is to plunge a country into civil strife and to ensure the spilling of much blood and the desolation of many homes. Jehoiada succeeded in his great undertaking, and his success was due to many things. These things are the constant constituents of prosperity everywhere. They are—
I. A SENSE OF SACRED DUTY. Jehoiada was not seeking his own exaltation; he was concerned that the purpose of God was not being fulfilled, and he was desirous of acting in such a way that the will of God should be done in the land, "as the Lord hath said" (2 Chronicles 23:3). Men often carry a purpose into execution because they are animated by a strong, energizing ambition; but they may also be quickened and sustained by a nobler end. They may be charged with a commission from God; they may be filled with a sense of what they owe to him. And a profound persuasion that God has called us to execute a certain work has again and again proved a most powerful inspiration.
II. COURAGE AND COMMAND ON THE PART OF THE LEADER (OR LEADERS). Jehoiada had made up his mind that the thing was now to be done; "The king's son shall reign," he said. And he went about the work of the restoration of the royal house of David with the firmness of fearlessness. He took a commanding tone, knowing that the moment of revolution is not the time for divided counsels. "This is the thing that ye shall do," he said (2 Chronicles 23:4); they did "according to all things Jehoiada … commanded" (2 Chronicles 23:8). Had there been any hesitancy on his part, any lack of decision or resolution, the attempt might have broken down. In perilous times, when great issues are at stake, we must not object to, but rather admire and sustain, the vigour and the determination of our leader.
III. THE GREATEST POSSIBLE CO-OPERATION. Jehoiada called to his aid the military (2 Chronicles 23:1), the ecclesiastics (2 Chronicles 23:2), the people (2 Chronicles 23:3). We should invite all to help on whose willingness and fidelity we can depend.
IV. A CONSCIENTIOUS REGARD FOR WHAT IS RIGHT. Jeboiada wanted to make the most effective arrangement of those who were to act at the critical moment, but he would not have any violation of sacred law under any circumstances (2 Chronicles 23:6). It is our bounden duty to neglect no measures that are likely to work toward the desired end; but in all our arrangements, with this in view, we must stop at the point of disobedience to the Divine Word. Even success itself, however ardently we may desire it, and however devotedly we may have been pursuing it, must be renounced if it cannot be won without the sacrifice of conscience. It is often bought too dearly; and the price is always too high when it includes even the small change of conscientious scruples.
V. THE GREATEST POSSIBLE WISDOM IN CONTRIVANCE. The outworking and execution of the most sagacious measures (2 Chronicles 23:3-10).
VI. OLDNESS AT THE MOMENT OF EXECUTION. (2 Chronicles 23:11.) Caution, perhaps secrecy, up to a certain hour; then openness and even daring will win the prize.
VII. A REVERENT ATTITUDE TOWARD THE GREAT DISPOSER OF EVENTS.—C.
2 Chronicles 23:11-15
Sin surprised at its rapture.
The success of this revolution, so long prepared and so admirably accomplished by Jehoiada, involved the ruin of one "wicked woman" (2 Chronicles 24:7). It was inevitable that Athaliah must perish; here we have the account of her fall. We have before us—
I. SIN SURPRISED AT ITS OWN FAILURE. This coup d'etat evidently came upon Athaliah with surprise. The twelfth verse describes the action of one that is both astonished and alarmed, who takes hasty measures to learn what is happening, and to provide for her own interests. Suddenly and unexpectedly the blow fell upon her head. She was pursuing her evil course, reckoning on future years of power and possession, and in the very midst of her iniquity judgment overtook and overthrew her. How continually does this happen, though it may be on a smaller scale and in humbler spheres! Sin appears to succeed, holds up its head in triumph for a while, defies all justice, human and Divine; then suddenly the ground opens beneath its feet, and it is swallowed up. Its temporary success is only an incident in its abort-lived career; it is a stage on its way to failure and humiliation. The foolish man does not understand this; he thinks it is a proof that God is afar off or is quite indifferent; he takes it as a sign that he may safely disregard the solemn warnings of God's Word. But he is foolish; he does not understand the course of things. "When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever" (Psalms 92:7; see also Psalms 73:2-20). We may be surprised and pained at the prosperity of the wicked, at the enthronement of the sanguinary and the selfish. Where is God's righteousness? where is the penalty of sin, we ask. Wait, and we shall see. The end will come before long. The shameless usurper, man or woman, will perish; the guilty empire will be overthrown. Suddenly or gradually their fate will fall upon them. "How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment!" Nor is it only the man or woman that rises to eminence and to a great estate who will prove the truth of this. Any one who hardens himself against God stands in the most serious danger of being "suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy," like the guilty woman at Jerusalem.
II. ENTHUSIASM UNDER A WISE CONTROL. There must have been the greatest excitement raised and felt on this occasion. Everything contributed to kindle popular feeling and to raise it to its highest point. When they surrounded the little child and anointed him with the sacred oil, and put the crown on his young head and cried, "God save the king!" we may be sure that the emotion which on some supreme occasions fills and fires a multitude of people, was then as intense as it could be (see 2 Chronicles 23:13); but Jehoiada held it under a wise control. And when Athaliah appeared, and when they looked at her, and remembered what she had done and what a blight and a curse she had been to the land, they might well have slain her on the spot. But the priest of Jehovah would not have the sacred place profaned with her blood, and he stayed their hand; they conducted her beyond the sacred precincts, and not till then did they inflict justice upon her. Feeling should never rise too high to be controlled by our judgment, especially strong feeling against any individual, man or woman. If we let our feelings carry our judgment along with them, we shall be sure to do that which we shall afterwards regret and which may be quite irreparable. Nor is any man at liberty to say that he is constitutionally impulsive and cannot control himself. It may be a more difficult duty in some natures than it is in others; but it is every man's serious and sacred obligation to rule his own spirit, to maintain a mastery over his affections and his impulses and his resentments. This is to be the excellent result of daily discipline, cf strenuous endeavour, of constant prayer.
III. THE SERVICE OF DESTRUCTION. "Then all the people went to the house of Baal, and brake it down," etc. (2 Chronicles 23:17). As a rule, the way in which we serve Christ wisely and permanently is the act of construction, of building up. Better to sow a seed than to pluck up a root; better to raise a Christian sanctuary than to knock down a heathen temple; better to implant thoughts of reverence and love than to rebuke and wither the profane word or the evil habit. But there is a time to plant and also to pluck up; a time to kill as well as to heal; a time to break down as well as to build up (Ecclesiastes 3:2, Ecclesiastes 3:3). There are evil and hurtful people to be put out of the room, pernicious books and papers to be put into the fire, ruinous institutions to be suppressed by the strong hand of law, deadly practices to be sternly forbidden. There is a time when "slaughter is God's daughter," when the destructive hand is the organ of the will of Jesus Christ.—C.
2 Chronicles 23:16
The basis of national prosperity.
Jehoiada knew that it would be of very little use to be rid of one ruler and to place another on the throne unless the nation itself could be bound in strong bonds to Jehovah, its true and almighty Sovereign. Hence the action he took as here described.
I. THE TRUE BASES OF NATIONAL PROSPERITY. Not a population outgrowing that of all other countries; nor an army and navy such as no other nation can equip; nor a full national exchequer; nor an extensive and extending territory. A country may have any or even all of these things, and yet be declining in strength and on the road to utter weakness and decay. The foundation of a people's strength is in the possession of the Divine favour. And this because:
1. God will grant his Divine blessing to those that seek him.
2. And because God "loves righteousness and hates iniquity," whether in the individual man or in the nation; and it is in "the fear of the Lord" that all moral and spiritual integrity rests as in its very root and source. That people, therefore, which would live and thrive must be a people seeking God's face and acting in accordance with his will. Then will it enjoy his blessing—that favour and succour with which it cannot fail to prosper, without which it is bound to fall.
II. A SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH. Jehoiada took advantage of the dynastic revolution to make it an occasion for entering into a solemn covenant "between all the people and between the king, that they should be the Lord's people." The time was suitable for this renewal of their covenant with God. He himself, a priest of the Lord, had headed, indeed had originated and effected, the overthrow of the old idolatrous regime; the young king was to be placed on the throne as a worshipper of Jehovah, and now they might pledge themselves, in the most solemn and binding form, to be loyal to that Divine Lord whose, indeed, they were by a thousand ties. It was wisely and worthily done. Acts of national acknowledgment of God must need be rare. But it is open to Churches, to families, and especially to individual men, to renew their vows of attachment to their Divine Lord; to affirm to themselves or to declare to their friends and neighbours that they are "the Lord's people." It is right and wise to employ any and every favourable opportunity of doing this. Such opportunity is found in:
1. The time when the soul returns to God from the far country of indifference and disloyalty, and realizes that it is admitted to the Father's home.
2. The time when the spirit is recalled from a temporary lapse, and again recognizes the supreme claims of a Divine Redeemer.
3. When we meet one another at the table of the Lord, and there are vividly reminded of the supreme fact that he "gave himself for us" unto shame and death.
4. On the reception of any special, personal, or domestic mercies at the kind hand of our heavenly Father.—C.
2 Chronicles 23:21
First purity, then peace.
"And the city was quiet, after that they had slain Athaliah with the sword." We can conceive of many occasions when the "slaying of a woman with the sword" should not and would not lead to quietude, but to unrest, to turbulence, and to strife. But this "wicked woman," Athaliah, was the impersonation of usurpation and of idolatry. To slay her was to "put away the evil thing" from above and from the midst of the people of God. It was an act of purgation, of cleansing of the nation's conscience. It was a spiritual upheaval, throwing off a heavy weight that rested on the spirit of obedience. It was an act of excision, cutting off the guilty "right hand" that the "whole body" might be saved. If there be in the way of our conscientious adhesion to the cause, and engagement in the service, of Christ any such obstacle as was this Athaliah to the people of Judah, then no half-measures will suffice. The evil, whatever it be, must be slain with the sword, must be "done to death," must be relentlessly rooted out; then, and net till then, will there be quiet through all the region of the soul. We may find this Athaliah of ours in—
I. AN INSINCERE PROFESSION OF FAITH we no longer hold, and consequently a disloyal practice in which we do not believe.
II. AN IMMORAL OR INJURIOUS HABIT, which may be secretly cherished, but which we know to be guilty.
III. AN UNLAWFUL GAIN, which our conscience condemns.
IV. A COMPANIONSHIP (or companionships), which cannot be retained while Jesus Christ is honoured and obeyed.—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 23:1-11
The coronation of Joash.
I. PREPARATIONS FOR THE CEREMONY. (2 Chronicles 23:1-10.)
1. Jehoiada's covenant with the captains. (2 Chronicles 23:1.)
(1) The time. In the seventh year of Joash's life, when Jehoiada felt that matters were ripe for a revolution. Six years of Athaliah as queen had put the people out of love with her person and practices. Even those about her court were becoming intolerant of her tyrannies and idolatries. Besides, six years had transformed the babe Jehoshabeath had rescued into a bey, a miniature king, who would much more easily and effectually arrest the popular imagination than an infant in arms. And, finally, Jehoiada had himself had leisure to watch the current of the times, to learn the temper and disposition of the people, to test the characters of those upon whose aid he must rely, to acquaint himself with all that would need to be done, and generally to mature his plans. In the seventh year he judged that the hour had struck for an attempt to liberate the country from the yoke of Athahah, and to restore the crown of David to its rightful heir. Many projects otherwise promising are lost by being launched forth prematurely, and many fail through want of "striking while the iron is hot" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
(2) The persons. Jehoiada called to his aid five centurions of the queen's body-guard, whom he probably knew to be disaffected towards the queen and favourable to a change in the government (2 Kings 11:4), and whose names are given—Azariah, "whom Jehovah aids;" the son of Jeroham, "who is loved;" Ishmael, "whom God hears," the son of Jehohanan, "Jehovah is gracious;" Azariah, the son of Obed, "worshipping;" Maaseiah, "work of Jehovah," the son of Adaiah, "whom Jehovah adorns;" Elishaphat, "whom God judges," the son of Zichri, "famous;"—all men of renown; good, if their characters were reflected in their names; capable, as their civil rank showed.
(3) The object. To depose Athaliah—trebly lawful, because, as a usurper, she had climbed into the throne by bloodshed and violence, and had therefore no just title to the sceptre; because, as a wicked ruler, her longer continuance in power would endamage the best interests, and even endanger the existence of the state; and because, so long as she wore the crown, the real heir to the throne was defrauded of his rights. Whether, in the first instance, Jehoiada mentioned the existence of Joash is doubtful.
2. The nation's covenant with the king.
(1) The representatives of the people summoned. The captains to whom this work was entrusted went about (verse 2), no doubt privately in Judah, and invited all the Levites and heads of fathers' houses in every city to a secret convention in Jerusalem.
(2) The people's representatives convened. In obedience to the high priest's call, those invited by his messengers came. The congregation consisted of the priests and Levites, the heads of fathers' houses, and the captains of the guards, with their men (?).
(3) The people's legitimate sovereign produced. The meeting was held in the temple court. At the proper moment Joash was produced (verse 3; 2 Kings 11:4), and the story of his preservation rehearsed.
(4) The people's duty pointed out. Skilfully done by Jehoiada, who simply said, "Behold, the king's son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the sons of David;" it was an intimation that the crown belonged to Joash by Divine appointment, and a hint to them to see that Jehovah's promise to their ancestor should not fail.
(5) The people's assent given. The effect of Jehoiada's action in producing Joash and in citing the Messianic promise (2 Samuel 7:12) was electrical. With one heart and voice the people pledged themselves to the revolution, to depose Athaliah and to crown Joash.
3. The arrangements for the coup d'etat.
(1) The disposition of the priests and Levites. These should be divided into two main bodies, those who entered on their temple duties (verse 4; 2 Kings 11:5) on the sabbath (the day fixed for the revolution), and those who retired from them (verse 8; 2 Kings 11:7). The former should again divide themselves into three companies. Of these, the first should act as" porters of the doors," or "keepers of the thresholds," i.e. were to mount guard at the gates of the temple (cf. 1 Chronicles 9:19); the second should stand "at the king's house," which may have been the apartments or cloister in which Joash was concealed (Keil), but more probably signified the palace (verse 15), the approach from which to the temple it was desirable to guard; the third should take up a position "at the gate of the foundation," or "the gate Jesod"—whether a temple gate (Stanley, Keil) or a palace gate (Bertheau) is uncertain. (On the discrepancies between these appointments and those in Kings, consult the Exposition.) The latter, i.e. the priests and Levites retiring from duty, should act as the king's body-guard when he entered into and departed from the temple. This work should be deputed to them alone, since they only as "holy" persons could pass into the temple. As their duty would be to ensure the safety of the king's person, they would be armed—"every man with his weapons in his band." To them also should be entrusted the task of seeing that no unauthorized person came within the precincts of the sacred edifice, and of executing judgment on such as without warrant did.
(2) The disposition of the people. These should be stationed in the court in which stood the brazen altar of Solomon.
(3) The disposition of the "captains of hundreds" and their men. These, whom the Chronicler does not overlook while assigning the principal part in the forthcoming ceremony to the priests and Levites, should be employed to preserve order amongst the people, and guard against the possibility of attack from any of the queen's party who might become cognizant of what was going on.
II. PROCEEDINGS IN THE CEREMONY. (Verses 8-11.)
1. The carrying out of the above arrangements. When the sabbath fixed for the execution of the plot arrived, "the Levites and all the men of Judah did according to all things that Jehoiada had commanded." Each priest, with his assistant Levites, went to his appointed place—those that entered on their temple duties to their different guards, as above explained; those that retired from service, instead of departing to their homes—"for Jehoiada dismissed not the courses"—to the new work of guarding the king's person, also as above explained. The former mounted guard at the temple gates, the latter assumed their places inside the temple (inner) court, "from the right side of the house to the left side of the house, along by the altar and the temple," so as to be "by the king round about." The people generally stood in the outer court, the centurions and their hundreds forming a circle round the inner court, between it and the people, so as to prevent any unauthorized person from passing within the house.
2. The arming of the captains. "Jehoiada delivered to them the spears, bucklers, and shields, that had been King David's, which were in the house of God" (verse 9). These were intended for themselves and their men (Berthean), either because they had come into the temple unarmed (Keil), having left their weapons in the palace on leaving duty (Bahr), or because Jehoiada wished David's crown to be won back by David's weapons (Ewald, Stanley), or perhaps he judged that, as the work they were about to be employed in was God's, so the weapons they should use should also be God's.
3. The production of the boy-prince. When everything was ready, Joash, encompassed by armed Levites, marched from the priest's house into the temple court, and took up his station at one of the pillars leading into the inner court (2 Chronicles 23:13; 2 Kings 11:14), so as to be seen by the priests and Levites in the inner, and the captains and people in the outer court.
4. The coronation of the heir to the throne. Jehoiada (with the people assenting) placed upon the brow of Joash the royal diadem, "probably a band studded with jewels—the first direct example of a coronation" (Stanley).
5. The delivering to him of the testimony. Not the insignia regia, i.e. the regalia of the kingdom (Clericus), or the phylacteries of Deuteronomy 6:8 (Grotius), or Samuel's laws of the kingdom (1 Samuel 8:10); but the Law of Moses, often called the "testimony" (Exodus 25:16; Exodus 27:21; Numbers 9:15; Numbers 10:11; Numbers 17:4), which was now presented to the young king in the form of a roll, to indicate that his life and government both should be regulated by its precepts (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).
6. The anointing of the new sovereign. Done by Jehoiada and his sons, this symbolized Joash's consecration to a theocratic or holy office, that of ruling over Jehovah's people. So Saul (1 Samuel 10:1) and David (1 Samuel 16:11) were anointed by Samuel, Solomon by Zadok the priest (1 Kings 1:39), and Jehu by Elisha's messenger (2 Kings 9:6).
7. The acclamation of the people. When the coronation ceremony ended, the people clapped their hands (2 Kings 11:12) in expression of their joy (Psalms 47:1), and shouted, as their wont was at coronations, "God save the king!" or, "Let the king live!" (1 Samuel 10:24; 2 Samuel 16:16).
1. It is not always wrong for ministers of religion to take part in politics.
2. There are times when rebellion against the powers that be is a solemn duty.
3. Neither God's house nor God's day can be put to a better use than to set a crown upon the head of God's anointed.
4. In Church and state alike each man has his own place and work.
5. Kings may expect their thrones to be stable if these are erected on the good will of their subjects.
6. No sovereign can rule well who takes not the Law of God for his guide.
7. A great and good man in troubled times invaluable to Church or state. What could Judah have done without Jehoiada?
8. No man can miss the destiny God has in store for him.—W.
2 Chronicles 23:12-15
The fall of Athaliah.
I. A STARTLED QUEEN. (2 Chronicles 23:12, 2 Chronicles 23:13.)
1. An unusual sound. Secretly as the coronation of Joash had been conducted, Athaliah's quick ear caught the noise of trampling feet, clapping hands, and shouting voices that issued from the temple on the other side of the Tyropoean valley. Guilty consciences, of sovereigns, as of common sinners, are prone to be startled by strange sounds (Job 18:11, Job 18:12); cf. 'Macbeth' (Acts 2:0. sc. 2), "I have done the deed: didst thou not hear a noise?"
2. An unexpected sight. Mustering her guards, Athahah proceeded from her palace across the bridge that spanned the valley, and entered the temple court, when a most unwelcome spectacle met her gaze-a boy standing on a raised platform in front of the inner court, probably the brazen scaffold of Solomon (2 Chronicles 6:13), his head encircled with a diadem, his hand grasping a roll of parchment as if it were a sceptre; beside him Jehoiada the priest, the princes of the people, and the Levitical trumpeters; around him all the people of the land, rejoicing and singing.
3. An unrestrained cry. Whether or not Athaliah recognized in Joash one of Ahaziah's sons, whom she fancied she had murdered six years before, she had no difficulty in comprehending the situation. A usurper herself, she perfectly understood the scene she beheld to mean revolution. Rending her garments in horror at the spectacle (2 Kings 6:30; Ezra 9:3), and perhaps in involuntary acknowledgment that the hour of her overthrow had struck (1 Samuel 15:27, 1 Samuel 15:28; 1 Kings 11:30), she likewise rent the air with a shriek of "Treason! treason!" (cf. 2 Kings 9:23).
II. AN AVENGING PRIEST. (2 Chronicles 23:14, 2 Chronicles 23:15.)
1. A charge to the captains.
(1) Concerning the queen. To arrest her, to lead her beyond the precincts of the temple, to put her to death. Sudden and peremptory, this order was absolutely necessary. Divine justice and public safety alike demanded Athaliah's blood. A murderess herself (2 Chronicles 22:10), her life was forfeit to the law (Genesis 9:6). An idolatress of the rankest type, she had incurred the sentence, "I will cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you" (Leviticus 26:30). A conspiratress, so long as she was spared the life of Joash was not secure.
(2) Concerning her adherents. That they also should be put to the sword. To follow Athaliah, defend her person or champion her cause, was to be guilty of leze majesty against Joash, and indeed against Jehovah, whose vicegerent Joash was.
2. Its execution by the captains.
(1) They hurried the unhappy queen beyond the precincts of the temple, that the holy place might not be polluted with human blood.
(2) They conducted her forth to the vicinity of the king's stables, the people opening their ranks and making way for her to pass.
(3) They slew her there, within sight of the palace she had usurped and of the temple she had desecrated. As by violence she had climbed into the throne, by violence she was hurled from it. As she had lived so doubtless she died, in unbelief and sin—a victim at once of popular fury and Divine retribution (Proverbs 11:31).
1. That the way of transgressors is hard.
2. That the wages of sin is death.
3. That they who take the sword shall perish with the sword.
4. That verily there is a God who judgeth in the earth.
5. That with what measure one metes it shall be measured to him again.—W.
2 Chronicles 23:16-21
The close of a revolution.
I. COVENANT-MAKING. (2 Chronicles 23:16.) Read in connection with 2 Kings 11:17, this verse points to two covenant transactions.
1. Between Jehovah and the king and people.
(1) In this the priest Jehoiada acted as Jehovah's representative—symbolizing the greater High Priest over the house of God, who in the new and better covenant of grace is to sinful men the Image of the invisible God (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 5:5).
(2) Of this the object was that they, Joash and his subjects, should be Jehovah's people, observing his worship and keeping his commandments, and that he should be their God, defending them against their adversaries, and bestowing on them temporal and spiritual, individual and national prosperity. This was the substance of the covenant Jehovah had made with the nation at Sinai (Exodus 19:3-6; Deuteronomy 5:2; Deuteronomy 26:17, Deuteronomy 26:18), and is the tenor of God's covenant with his people in the gospel (Hebrews 8:8-13).
2. Between the king and the people.
(1) On his side that he would govern in accordance with the testimony put into his hand that day; and
(2) on their side that they would be loyal to the throne on which he sat. This covenant is implicitly involved in all relationships of king and subjects. An unjust and tyrannical ruler ipso facto violates the contract between himself and his people, and to that extent absolves them from allegiance to his authority. Piety in the sovereign and loyalty in the people are the two best supports of an earthly throne.
II. IDOL-PURGING. In a fit of reforming zeal the excited people entered without delay on a crusade against the false worship which had been introduced and patronized by Athaliah.
1. The temple of Baal wrecked. This idolatrous shrine had probably been erected by Jehoram to please Athaliah (2 Chronicles 21:11; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 9.7. 4), as a similar edifice had been constructed in Samaria by Ahab, under the influence of Jezebel (1 Kings 16:32). Most likely it stood on Mount Moriah, alongside of the temple, if not within its outer court (Thenius, Bertheau), rather than on a different elevation (Bahr). Its proximity to the temple would account for its having become so soon a prey to popular fury, as when building its vicinity to the temple suggested the idea of tearing down the temple walls for stones to construct it (2 Chronicles 24:7). Now a day of Nemesis had dawned for it, as similar days had already overtaken its builders. Its walls and pillars, altars and imagos, were shattered in pieces. Compare the destruction of the Roman Catholic edifices in Perth on May 11,1559, after a sermon by Knox. "The congregation [in the church of St. John's] was still undispersed, when a priest came in, went up to the altar, opened the tabernacle, and prepared to say Mass. A boy who was present said something insolent. The priest struck him; and the boy, snatching up a stone, flung it at the crucifix, which fell broken to the ground. The common instinct shot through the gathered crowd; altar, ornaments, images, in a few moments lay in ruins on the chancel floor. The saints were flung from their niches, the storied windows dashed in atoms. Then the cry rose,' To the Greyfriars!' and in an hour or two the poor monks, started from their noonday dinner, were adrift upon the world, and their homes going up in smoke and flame into the sky". "For a day or two after Knox preached his famous sermon, the besom of destruction was exceedingly busy in and about the fair city. Somebody—perhaps Knox himself—had remarked that 'if the nests were pulled down the rooks would fly away;' and so all hands were laid to the nests. Popular fury raged uncontrollably. The monasteries and chapels which had given stately adornment to the city and its environs were reduced to ruins, only the bare and broken walls remaining, and most of these gaunt wrecks speedily disappeared".
2. The priest of Baal slain. Marian the "priestling" (the Targum), having attempted to lead the people astray, had incurred the penalty of death (Deuteronomy 13:9), which was summarily inflicted, perhaps as Moses had directed, by stoning him beside the altars at which he had served. Compare the murder of Zechariah by Joash's minions in the later years of his reign (2 Chronicles 24:20).
III. WORSHIP-REFORMING. (Verses 18, 19.)
1. Irregularities corrected. The offices of the house of the Lord with reference to burnt offerings were arranged in accordance with the prescriptions of the Law of Moses. No worship was acceptable under the Hebrew economy that did not adhere to the regulations of that divinely inspired ritual; no worship is acceptable under the gospel dispensation that departs from the rubric laid clown by Jesus in his sermon at the well (John 4:24).
2. Impurities prevented. Watchers were established at the temple gates, that none should enter in who were in any respect unclean, i.e. ceremonially defiled. Under the Law such persons were separated from the congregation (Numbers 19:20; Le Numbers 11:24; Numbers 22:5), and, until they were purified, could take no part in the solemnities of Divine worship. The truth therein symbolized was that worship derives its quality from the character of the worshipper. An unclean Israelite could not render acceptable worship to a God holy as Jehovah was. ]got until an atonement had been offered for his trespass by the officiating priest, and his body had been washed in pure water, could he take his place in the congregation of them who had a right to draw near to Jehovah. And neither can any render acceptable worship under the gospel who do not do so on the basis of an atonement offered for them by the great High Priest over the house of God, and with the Heaven-inspired emotions of a renewed life, "with hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:19-22).
3. Hilarities superadded. That the service of Jehovah was designed to be a perennial fount of joy for Jehovah's people was understood and proclaimed by Moses (Deuteronomy 33:29). Until David's time this was not so widely apprehended as might have been expected. The second king of Israel, however, discerned with penetrating vision that the worship of Jehovah should ever be accompanied with gladness (Psalms 5:11; Psalms 32:11; Psalms 68:3; Psalms 89:15, Psalms 89:16; Psalms 100:1, Psalms 100:2); and in order to express this idea, with the concurrence and approval of the captains of the host, he "separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, those who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals" (1 Chronicles 25:1). During the reigns of Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah this part of the Divine service had been discontinued. When Joash acceded to the throne it was restored. So should Christians always serve God "with singing and rejoicing;" and this they will do in proportion as they are filled with that Spirit of which the fruit is joy (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:18, Ephesians 5:19; Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16; 1 John 1:4).
IV. KING-ENTHRONING. (Verse 20.)
1. Led by the priest. Having completed his arrangements for the restoration of the temple service, Jehoiada proceeded with what was still needful to perfect the revolution. Lifting the boy-king from the platform, he led him forth from the temple down the causeway which conducted towards the palace.
2. Escorted by the people. As the crowd a little before had opened its ranks to let Athaliah pass to her destruction, so now it opens them again to let the young sovereign march to his regal residence. Probably preceded by the centurions, the princes, and the heads of fathers' houses, as in the temple he had been encompassed by the Levites, he is followed by the people of the land.
3. Conducted through the upper gate. This, called, "the gate of the guard" (2 Kings 11:19), was not a temple door (Keil), but an entrance into the palace (Bertheau), perhaps the principal one, through which the royal guards were accustomed to pass. It was fitting that David's heir should publicly take possession of David's house.
4. Set upon the throne. This the natural termination of the ceremony. Joash was established upon the throne of the kingdom, the throne of his fathers, the throne which derived its authority from Jehovah alone.
V. POPULAR REJOICING. (Verse 21.)
1. The country was glad—that the queen was slain. Her government had been a usurpation and a curse. Nobody lamented her. If she had a funeral, those who bore her to her last resting-place gave vent to their emotions, not in sobs, but in songs. If they shed tears above her sepulchre, these were tears of joy, not of grief. A terrible commentary on any one's life, that one's contemporaries, whether equals or dependents, are glad to be rid of one—to see one's career ended, one's breath stopped, and one's carcase huddled out of sight!
2. The city was quiet—though the queen was slain. No one dreamt of drawing a sword to avenge her assassination. Those who knew her best, who had most frequent opportunities of studying her character and observing her behaviour, had nothing to say in extenuation of her faults or in commiseration of her fate. The consciences of her people were satisfied that she had deserved her doom. Perhaps the pious among them added, "So let all thine enemies perish, O Jehovah" (Judges 5:31).
1. That the secret of all true prosperity, for Church or state, for society or for the individual, is piety towards God and rectitude towards man.
2. That true religion can admit of no compromise with false religion, but must aim at its extermination.
3. That in all matters of faith and practice, doctrine and duty, ritual and worship, the will of God, not the opinion of man, is the supreme rule.
4. That the enemy most requiring to be guarded against by God's worshippers is sin.
5. That the King's house for Christians is not the material temples in which they worship, but their own hearts, in which Christ desires to be enthroned.
6. That it is legitimate to rejoice over the destruction of the enemies of God and his people (Proverbs 11:10).—W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 23". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany