*August 17 - 23
Judah: From Jehoram to Joash
MEMORY TEXT: "And Jehoiada made a covenant between him, and between all the people, and between the king, that they should be the Lord's people" (2 Chronicles 23:16).
JEHORAM, AHAZIAH, ATHALIAH, AND JOASH: A TRAGEDY OF ERRORS. This week covers about fifty-eight years of leadership in Judah, beginning with Jehoram and ending with Joash. It is really amazing, not that these people were either corrupt or easily corruptible but that the Bible would be so open and obvious about their foibles. This was not a common practice in the ancient Near East, where official chroniclers tended (though not always) to gloss over or flat-out ignore the mistakes of their mighty and holy sovereigns.
This certainly is not the case with the Jews. On the contrary. Beginning with Jehoram, who "did evil in the sight of the Lord" (2 Chron. 21:6, NKJV), up through Joash, who started out his reign fairly well (After all, how much evil can a seven-year-old do?) only to end on a rather sour note (killing the son of the man who helped bring him to the throne), this week covers some pretty incredible events.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What were some of the bad influences on Jehoram? How did Athaliah ascend the throne of Judah? What did she attempt to do to the house of David? How was she finally overthrown? What reforms did Jehoiada attempt to institute in Judah? How did someone like Joash start out so good only to end his reign on such a bad note?
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 24.
Sunday August 18
"Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers also of the princes of Israel" (2 Chron. 21:4).
Thus reads the first recorded act of Jehoram, firstborn of good king Jehoshaphat, new ruler in Judah (God's chosen nation) and ancestor to Jesus the Messiah. Killing all his brothers and anyone else who might have threatened his reign, young Jehoram showed that whatever he might have lacked in spirituality he made up for in political cunning (this, a few thousands years before Machaivelli wrote The Prince). Of course, to be fair, Solomon did somewhat the same thing (1 Kings 2), even if the circumstances greatly differed. Nevertheless, the principle remains: God's chosen nation, in seeking a king, reaped the sad results of that choice.
The rest of Jehoram's reign, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 21, reflects his first acts. A hint, no doubt, of one reason for his terrible reign is found in verse 6. He was married to a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, more than likely the marriage arranged by his father years earlier to help cement political ties with Israel (see 2 Chron. 18:1; see also 2 Chron. 21:5, 6). This presents a perfect example of how even good people reap the horrendous results of their mistakes.
Read the letter that came to Jehoram from Elijah the prophet (2 Chron. 21:12-15). What, basically, does Elijah say to the king? Why should his own children and family suffer directly from the king's apostasy? Where else in the Bible do we see this principle, that of innocents suffering for the wrong acts of others? How do we understand this consequence, in light of God's fairness and justice?
One of the problems modern readers often have with texts like these is the phrase that "the Lord will strike" you with this or "the Lord will strike" (vs. 14, NKJV) you with that. Oftentimes this is merely the Bible writer's way of expressing the natural results of disobedience, though there are unmistakable instances of God's direct retributive intervention (see Genesis 7). In other words, these evil things are not necessarily the direct result of God's supernatural action, even if Bible writers sometimes express it that way. Whatever the case, the principle is the same: Disobedience brings ruin, a point stressed over and over again in the Bible, particularly in the Kings-Chronicles saga.
After the sorry and tragic reign of Jehoram in Judah (854-841 B.C.), his son Ahaziah ruled, but only for one year before being killed (2 Chron. 22:2).
Second Chronicles 22 outlines the events that lead to his death. Why would it be fitting that he should die with the house of Ahab (see vss. 2-4) in the northern kingdom?
What is most important about Ahaziah is not his rule but what followed, and that is the reign of Athaliah, mother of Ahaziah, wife of Jehoram, and daughter of Jezebel and Ahab (what family ties!). According to the text, she was so enraged by what happened to her royal family in Israel that she decided to do the same to the royal family in Judah.
Though on the surface this seemed like just another dynastic mess in Israel, more murdering and conniving for power, nothing more-a greater issue was at stake here.
In 2 Samuel 7:25 and 26 God promises David that he would establish his dynasty forever, because the Lord planned for the Messiah to come through David's bloodline (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:32, 33; Acts 2:29-31; 13:22, 23; Rev. 3:7; 22:16). Genesis 49:10 adds, early on, that He will come through Judah. If, however, Athaliah succeeded in destroying "all the royal heirs of the house of Judah" (2 Chron. 22:10, NKJV), the bloodline would have ended. Ideally, then, the prophecies of Jesus, coming from the line of David, could not have been fulfilled.
"In this massacre all the descendants of David who were eligible to the throne were destroyed, save one, a babe named Joash."Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings. p. 215.
|Read 2 Chronicles 22:11. Who is Jehoshabeath? She is mentioned only twice in the entire Scriptures (see also 2 Kings 11:2). Yet, she played such a key role in preserving the royal line of David, through which Jesus the Messiah, Savior of the world, would come. It is hard to imagine such high stakes resting upon one person. This incident, though, is not the only time something similar has happened, either in the Bible or secular history. What other incidents, whether in the Bible or in extrabiblical history, show how the faithfulness and dedication of even a single person, perhaps someone not even highly esteemed, can have such important consequences? And though few of us would even be in a position such as Jehoshabeath, what does this account tell us about ourselves and about the potential for good we have in the Lord's work if we remain faithful?|
"And all the congregation made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And he said unto them, Behold, the king's son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the Sons of David" (2 Chron. 23:3).
After the death of Ahaziah, his mother, the pagan Athaliah, seized the throne for six years (2 Chron. 22:12). She was not even a remote descendant of King David; her six-year rule marked the only interruption in the direct line of Davidic leadership in Judah.
Who led out in the revolt against the reign of Athaliah? What reasons did he have to justify his palace coup? After all, what does Paul say in Romans? "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Rom. 13:1, 2). Though, of course, Jehoiada could not have read Paul, did the principle still not apply, all the same? Why, too, did he wait until, of all days, the Sabbath (2 Chron. 23:8), to institute the revolt?
Verse 16 of 2 Chronicles 23 reads, "And Jehoiada made a covenant between him, and between all the people, and between the king, that they should be the Lord's people." Jehoiada, obviously, was serious about turning the people of Judah back to the Lord; he intended that they should be "the Lord's people." What does that mean, that they should be "the Lord's people"? See Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 31:33, 34; and chapter 32:38-40 for hints. That title is obviously not something that comes automatically by blood, or there would have been no need for Jehoiada to admonish the people to renew the covenant with the Lord.
|Read 2 Chronicles 23:16-21. Notice the steps that Jehoiada took to try to set the nation right with God again. Besides having the queen killed, he tore down pagan altars, killed the priests of Baal, reestablished the Levitical priesthood, and appointed gatekeepers at the gates of the house of the Lord so that "no one who was in any way unclean should enter" (vs. 19, NKJV). Does all this not sound so judgmental, so narrow-minded, so parochial? Why take such extreme measures? Did he never hear of liberty of conscience? What justification did he have for such harsh acts, and what do those acts tell us about how we, personally, need to deal with the "pagan" influences in our own lives?|
According to the Bible, Joash (or Jehoash) had been on the throne 23 years before declaring that the temple (2 Kings 12:6), defiled by the sons of Athaliah (2 Chron. 24:7), needed repair. Notice what he says to them in 2 Kings 12:7: "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."
Apparently, the priests had been taking money from the people and using it for either themselves or for purposes other than the maintenance of the temple. For whatever reason, it was not a project the priesthood showed much enthusiasm about (see also 2 Chron. 24:5). Perhaps they knew that the more spent on the temple, the less they would have for themselves.
Where was the money to come from for the needed repairs? Read 2 Kings 12:4, 5, 9, 10.
"Three different kinds of offerings are here referred to: (1) 'The dedicated things.' Money from persons who had made vows to the Lord or who had dedicated certain animals or objects to Him (see Lev. 27:2-28). (2) 'The money of every one that passeth the account.' That is, the money each individual was assessed. This was half a shekel, whether rich or poor (Ex. 30:13-15). (3) 'The money that cometh into any man's heart.' This consisted of freewill offerings."The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 923: 2 Kings 12:4, "All the money."
Read the account of how the money was to be given for the repair of the temple as presented in 2 Chronicles 24:8-10. Why was it such a success? Could the fact that the people themselves gave, without compulsion, have something to do with why there was "money in abundance"? (vs. 11, NKJV). Compare what happened here with what happened in Exodus 36:3-6.
Perhaps the most telling verse in this whole account appears in 2 Chronicles 24:10, which says that all the leaders and all the people rejoiced. No doubt, they felt satisfaction in freely being part of this important work. In other words, because they believed in what they were doing, they were glad to do it. The lessons for us should be obvious.
In Shakespeare's Richard III, a citizen says "Woe to the land that is governed by a child." This is not true in the case of Joash, who was placed on the throne of Judah at the incredibly young age of seven (2 Chron. 24:1). His earlier days were, in fact, better than his latter ones.
The Bible basically explains why. Second Chronicles 24:2 says, "And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest." (Second Kings 12:2 adds the phrase "all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him," NIV.) Notice the caveat here: The king did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord as long as Jehoiada the priest was around. This was the priest whose wife, Jehoshabeath (2 Chron. 22:11), had first hid the child from the murderous clutches of Athaliah and who, himself, led the revolt that overthrew the queen. As long as Jehoiada guided him, Joash stayed faithful. However, once Jehoiada died, the situation changed.
Read 2 Chronicles 24:17. The text could also be translated, "And after the death of Jehoiada, the princes of Judah came and they bowed before the king; then the king obeyed them." What does this text say about the character of Joash?
Joash, obviously, was someone who easily could be swayed. That could be good, or it could be bad. People need to be open to the influence and counsel of others; that openness, however, could be a double-edged sword. The same attitude that allows a person to listen to good counselors also allows him or her to listen to bad ones, Joash being a prime example. Taking advice is one thing; learning to filter that advice, the good from the bad, is another.
Read 2 Chronicles 24:24. What principle, again, appears here?
Look at verses 21 and 22. It is hard to imagine how quickly and deeply a person can fall, once under the wrong influences. It would have been bad enough if Joash had simply ignored the warnings of Zechariah (vs. 20); but he did not stop there. Instead, he had this man, the son of Jehoiada, stoned to death! How could he do that? Notice how verse 21 starts: "They conspired against" Zechariah, "they" being, no doubt, those princes who had first talked Joash into allowing idolatry. However, according to the same text, it was the king himself who gave the command for the prophet to be killed. What a testimony to how deeply wrong influences can corrupt those not firmly rooted in faith and obedience.
Please read Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 374, 375; The Great Controversy, p. 451; Revelation 14:6, 7.
"The blessings thus assured to Israel are, on the same conditions and in the same degree, assured to every nation and to every individual under the broad heavens."Prophets and Kings, pp. 500, 501. "The church in this generation has been endowed by God with great privileges and blessings, and He expects corresponding returns."Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 296.
When I retired after years of selling literature in South Africa, I decided to return to Namibia, where I had worked in the late 1970s.
I visited one town where there had been no church. I was thrilled to find a church with 90 members. Some of the charter members were people to whom I had sold books! Others whom I had met while colporteuring have since been baptized into this church.
One couple I had sold books to lived a wild life. The husband was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I invited them to church and was surprised when they came. After the service they told me that they had lived together for 10 years, but they wanted to be married. Soon after their marriage they began preparing for baptism. Recently I met this family in church and found a faithful Christian couple.
I gave Bible studies to a woman named Susan. She wanted to be baptized, but her husband was angry about her decision. On the morning of her baptism, the pastor and I went to pick her up. We found the husband standing in his yard bare chested and angry. "So you are the guy who convinced my wife to become an Adventist!" he roared. The man charged toward us. Suddenly this huge man was lying on the ground, stunned. The pastor, a judo expert, had flipped him onto the ground. He was unhurt, but he lay quietly while Susan got into the car.
I went to visit Susan and found her happy in her Christian life. When I asked about her husband, she told me he would soon be home. I wondered if I should leave, but just then he walked in.
"Guess who this is," Susan said, smiling. She introduced me, and the man reached out his hand.
He noticed my nervousness. "Don't worry," he chuckled. "I am not cross with you. I am glad that my wife became an Adventist. I know now what my wife's decision was all about, and soon I will join her." "My husband is preparing for baptism," Susan added.
I was not sure what I would find when I returned to Namibia, but God turned my adventure into a taste of heaven.
Edward Oliphant is a retired colporteur who has remained in Namibia to work as a Bible worker. He still sells books whenever he has a chance.
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