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But in the eleventh chapter we have another scene of deep import and interest. There is a wicked woman and when a woman is wicked there is no wickedness like hers. "And when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she arose, and destroyed all the seed royal. But Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons which were slain; and they hid him (even him and his nurse) in the bed-chamber, from Athaliah, so that he was not slain" (2 Kings 11:1-2).
We know what the love of a parent and of a grandparent is, but here in Athaliah was no right feeling. Her very blood was corrupted in her veins. And this wretched and selfish woman this inheritress of the wickedness of Jezebel, now, alas! in the line of Judah has the opportunity, as she thinks, to stamp out the royal line of Judah. Both the desire of dominion and the hatred of the purpose of God wicked allies strove together to accomplish this nefarious purpose. Had the line of Ahab been extinguished? Had Ahaziah and his brethren fallen? The guilty purpose rose in her heart to put an end to the seed-royal of Judah, as that of Israel had been already extinguished. What interest had she? How did she care for it? The word of God had distinctly assured them that the line of Judah should never go out the only real line that has remained unbroken from the beginning, and will throughout eternity. I speak now for the earth up to eternity at least, for even if we only look at the earth under the government of God, that line, and that line alone, so abides.
And yet there never was a line so slender: there never was a line that hung so often upon a single thread. Just contrast it with Israel. Think of seventy sons of one family! and, I will not say the promise, but the apparent moral certainty that that line must be perpetuated for ever! But no it was put out in one day! Who could have thought of it beforehand? And this too in the royal city, and by the royal servants, Such is man; such is the world. The word of the Lord had said it. Oh! what foolishness is ours that could ever doubt a word of God! And what has God given us all this for, but that we may know that if that word stands in what is evil, how much more in what is good? If God accomplishes His threats to the letter, can His promises fail for an instant? I grant indeed that His promises continually seem to fail, just for the very purpose that our faith should not stand in appearances, but in the word of God. There would be no faith about it if all seemed to be easy and flowing; but it is precisely the contrary. All appearance is against it, but God watches still. If it were only one feeble scion of that house, it was enough. It was a scion of that house, and that house stands for ever, because God has said it. And so we shall see in this chapter.
Athaliah then, Joash's own grandparent the one that ought most of all, from her sense of her relationship, to have been the guardian of that one only descendant of herself, who had her own blood in his veins this very Athaliah seeks to destroy the one last remaining scion of the house of David. Well, it seemed impossible! For think you that when she thought to kill the seed royal she forgot the little boy? Not she. She knew well about him. It is not for me to say how the thing was covered over how it was that Jehosheba knew how to guard the child from the suspicions and the inquisition that would naturally follow for one that was rescued, for if there was a woman that was crafty in what was evil it was Athaliah. I suppose it is not too much to imagine that there may have been a little conspiracy upon this good Jehosheba's part, also on the other side. At any rate, I have no wish to say anything to her disparagement, but I do say that, whatever the means, God employed the purpose of her heart for the shelter of the child. He was hidden then, and hidden where none could have expected in the temple. Such a state of things calls for no common screen for a royal child, and surely God was with the shelter that was given him. And although that temple was built for priests and not for a king in distress, still the grace of the Lord rises over all such merely ritual circumstances.
"And the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guards, and brought them to him into the house of Jehovah, and made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of Jehovah." Here again we see that mere ritualism cannot stand against what is moral cannot stand against that which concerns the word of God in its accomplishment for him whom God had set over His people Israel. "He made a covenant with them and took an oath of them in the house of Jehovah, and showed them the king's son." The king's son was but a little boy, but he was the lawful king of Israel in fact only the king of Judah, but in title really of Israel. "And he commanded them, saying, This is the thing that ye shall do; a third part of you that enter in on the Sabbath shall even be keepers of the watch of the king's house; and a third part shall be at the gate of Sur; and a third part at the gate behind the guard; so shall ye keep the watch of the house, that it be not broken down."
All then is prepared. "And the captains over the hundreds did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest commanded: and they took every man his men that were to come in on the Sabbath, with them that should go out on the Sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. And to the captains over hundreds did the priest give king David's spears and shields, that were in the temple of Jehovah. And the guard stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, round about the king, from the right corner of the temple to the left corner of the temple, along by the altar and the temple. And he brought forth the king's son, and put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king."
Athaliah was not long without hearing the tumult. So she comes to the people and to the temple of Jehovah. A strange place for her, the hater of Jehovah and the patron of idolatry in its worst form! She comes, and looks, and behold, the king stood by a pillar. The king! And this was all that her murderous policy had led to and ended in. "The king stood by a pillar; as the manner was, and the princes and the trumpeters by the king; and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets. And Athaliah rent her clothes and cried, Treason, treason;" The old voice the voice of her mother, before her, and the voice too of her son after her, and now her own. But the truth was, it was she who was the traitor. It was she that had tried to blot out the king from the throne; and, accordingly, she meets with the just reward of a traitor, for "Jehoiada 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. For the priest had said, Let her not be slain in the house of Jehovah." There was no one to follow. She was alone, not alone in her evil, but now her evil had not one sympathizer. "So 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 Jehoiada made a covenant between Jehovah and the king and the people, that they should be Jehovah's people; between the king also and the people. And all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and brake it down." And thus the worship of Baal was dealt with in Judah, as it had been before in Israel.
"In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign; and forty years reigned he in Jerusalem; and his mother's name was Zibiah of Beer-sheba. And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of Jehovah all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him. But the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places" (2 Kings 12:0). Nevertheless, as long as Jehoiada was there there was a measure of care outwardly for the things of God; and, as the priests had watched over Jehoash in his childhood, Jehoash now in his maturity watches over them and says to the priests, "All the money of the dedicated things that is brought into the house of Jehovah, even the money of every one that passeth the account, the money that every man is set at, and all the money that cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of Jehovah, let the priests take it to them, every man of his acquaintance; and let them repair the breaches of the house, wheresoever any breach shall be found. But it was so, that in the three and twentieth year of king Jehoash, the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house." That is, instead of applying the contributions for the house of Jehovah they had applied them to themselves.
"Then king Jehoash called for Jehoiada the priest, and the other priests, and said unto them, Why repair ye not the breaches of the house? Now therefore receive no more money of your acquaintance, but deliver it for the breaches of the house. And the priests consented to receive no more money of the people, neither to repair the breaches of the house. But Jehoiada the priest took a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one cometh into the house of the Jehovah: and the priests that kept the door put therein all the money that was brought into the house of Jehovah." And so it was done: the work proceeded, Jehoiada watched over it, and the house of Jehovah was repaired.
But however this might be, the heart of Jehoash was not with the Lord, and the death of Jehoiada gave an occasion to display it. This, however, I need not dwell upon now. "In the three and twentieth year of Joash the son of Ahaziah king of Judah Jehoahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned seventeen years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael, all their days. And Jehoahaz besought Jehovah, and Jehovah hearkened unto him" (2 Kings 13:1-25). How gracious is the Lord! We see, alas! that the one who began so fair at last slips away from his original integrity. But we see that the man who hearkens and bows to the Lord is never without, at any rate, some measure of recognition on God's part. "And Jehovah gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians: and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents, as before-time. Nevertheless they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel sin."
But, after this, we find, "In the thirty and seventh year of Joash king of Judah began Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz to reign," and he comes in contact with the prophet Elisha. This is a point that I wish to direct your attention to for a moment. Joash comes down, and weeps over Elisha's face, and says, "O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!" the same words that Elisha himself had used when he saw the prophet going up to heaven that is, he acknowledged him to be the strength of Israel. What makes it so touching is, that he was dying; all natural vigour was departing from him. But just as Elisha owned that the strength of Israel was not in horses or chariots, but that he was the one that he was all their strength as far as God had employed him for that purpose so here in the same way Joash the king of Israel owns the dying Elisha, and God owns the word. "And Elisha said to him, Take bow and arrows; and he took unto him bow and arrows. And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow; and he put his hand upon it." But there was another and a mightier hand, although the hand of a dying man. "Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands," and God saw, and God gave the power, the needed power. "And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of Jehovah's deliverance." Truly dying Elisha was the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof; for God would show that the strength of his people does not lie in what man can see, but in the vigour that He himself imparts. "The arrow of Jehovah's deliverance," said he, "and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek till thou have consumed them. And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice and stayed."
Why did he stay? Did he not know what the prophet meant? Did he not apprehend the grace of God that was now at work? Why did he stay? Alas! a man never stays out the grace of God, even were it an Abraham who leaves off when he ought to go on! Yet the grace of God never fails of its purpose. Here, however, it was the judgment of God. The grace of God prevailed over the intercession of Abraham, for if Abraham dared not to ask for Sodom and Gomorrah to be spared for the sake of ten, and if God did better than simply spare the guilty cities for the sake of ten if God delivered the one righteous man and delivered for the righteous man's sake more than one that were not righteous if God's grace so abounded above the weakness of the interceding servant then, now in judgment God would hold strictly to the letter. Had he struck thrice to the ground with the arrows? Then thrice should the Syrians be smitten and no more. "And the man of God was wroth with him and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it; whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice." Truly Elisha was the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on 2 Kings 11". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany