Athaliah’s Evil Reign in Judah

Before refrigerators, people used ice houses to preserve their food. In winter, when lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the ice houses, and covered with sawdust. One man lost a valuable watch while working in an ice house. He searched for it, carefully rak … More


Shifting to the events in Judah we find Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel in control.  She came to Judah in a marriage alliance, and established a power base during her husband Jehoram’s role and continued to hold this power during the brief reign of her son, Ahaziah.  At his death, Athaliah took immediate action to exterminate the entire royal family.  She would have been successful had it not been for Jehosheba, her sister, who took the young infant Joash and protected him from the slaughter.

For six years Athaliah was in virtual control and pursued her practice of Baal worship.  No doubt she heard about the violent reforms of Jehu to the north and this increased her zeal for Baal worship. Then a hero emerged in the person of Jehoiada, the priest, and the husband of Jehosheba.  Summoning the palace guards, he plotted the overthrow of Athaliah.  At the changing of the guard, the young prince, Joash, was brought out, anointed and proclaimed king.  Joash was seven years old at the time.  After the solemn coronation ceremony, the group erupted in shouts of “Long live the king!"  Athaliah came out to find out what was going on only to be greeted by the new king standing by the pillar reserved for royalty.  In spite of her protests, she was taken out of the temple area and to the stable entrance of the royal palace and was executed.  Until Joash was mature, Jehoiada was really the power behind the throne.


Athaliah’s attempt to kill all of Ahaziah’s sons was futile because God had promised that the Messiah would be born through David’s descendants (2 Sam. 7).  Our efforts to do things in this life are futile unless it is part of God’s plan.

II Kings 11:1-21 (English Standard Version)

Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king's sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death. And he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the LORD, while Athaliah reigned over the land. But in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of the Carites and of the guards, and had them come to him in the house of the LORD. And he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the LORD, and he showed them the king's son. And he commanded them, "This is the thing that you shall do: one third of you, those who come off duty on the Sabbath and guard the king's house (another third being at the gate Sur and a third at the gate behind the guards) shall guard the palace. And the two divisions of you, which come on duty in force on the Sabbath and guard the house of the LORD on behalf of the king, shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand. And whoever approaches the ranks is to be put to death. Be with the king when he goes out and when he comes in." The captains did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they each brought his men who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest. And the priest gave to the captains the spears and shields that had been King David's, which were in the house of the LORD. And the guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house on behalf of the king. Then he brought out the king's son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, "Long live the king!" When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she went into the house of the LORD to the people. And when she looked, there was the king standing by the pillar, according to the custom, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. And Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, "Treason! Treason!" Then Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains who were set over the army, "Bring her out between the ranks, and put to death with the sword anyone who follows her." For the priest said, "Let her not be put to death in the house of the LORD." So they laid hands on her; and she went through the horses' entrance to the king's house, and there she was put to death. And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, that they should be the LORD's people, and also between the king and the people. Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest posted watchmen over the house of the LORD. And he took the captains, the Carites, the guards, and all the people of the land, and they brought the king down from the house of the LORD, marching through the gate of the guards to the king's house. And he took his seat on the throne of the kings. So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king's house. Jehoash was seven years old when he began to reign.

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