ATHALIAH USURPS THE THRONE OF JUDAH, BUT IS DEPOSED AND SLAIN, AND HER GRANDSON JOASH CROWNED, THROUGH THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF THE HIGH PRIEST JEHOIADA.
(1) And when Athaliah . . . saw.—Rather, Now Athaliah . . . had seen. (The and, which the common Hebrew text inserts before the verb, is merely a mistaken repetition of the last letter of Ahaziah. Many MSS. omit it.)
As to Athaliah and her evil influence on her husband Jehoram, see 2 Kings 8:18; 2 Kings 8:26-27. By her ambition and her cruelty she now shows herself a worthy daughter of Jezebel.
Her son.—Ahaziah (2 Kings 9:27). The history of the Judæan monarchy is resumed from that point.
Destroyed all the seed royal.—“The seed of the kingdom” (see margin) means all who might set up claims to the succession. Ahaziah’s brothers had been slain by the Arabs (2 Chronicles 21:17); and his “kinsmen” by Jehu (2 Kings 10:14). Those whom Athaliah slew would be for the most part Ahaziah’s own sons, though other relatives are not excluded by the term.
The king’s sons which were slain.—Rather, which were to be put to death. At the time when the order for slaying the princes had been given, Jehosheba (or Jehoshabeath; Chronicles) concealed the infant Joash. The fact of his infancy caused him to be overlooked. [The Hebrew text here reads by mistake a word meaning deaths (Jeremiah 16:4). Chronicles supports the Hebrew margin.]
And they hid him.—This clause is out of its place here. The Hebrew is, him and his nurse in the chamber of the beds; and they hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death. Clearly the word, “and she put,” supplied in Chronicles, has fallen out before this. The Targum and Syriac read, “and she hid him and his nurse,” &c.
In the bedchamber.—In the chamber of beds, i.e., the room in the palace where the mattresses and the coverlets were kept, according to a custom still prevalent in the East. This chamber being unoccupied was the nearest hiding-place at first. The babe was afterwards secretly conveyed within the Temple precincts.
Did reign.—Was reigning.
Jehoiada.—The high priest (2 Kings 11:9). The curious fact that his rank is not specified hero upon the first mention of his name, suggests the inference that in the original authority of this narrative he had been mentioned as high priest, and husband of Jehosheba, at the outset of the story, as in 2 Chronicles 22:11.
The rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard.—Rather, the centurions of the Carians and the Couriers—i.e., the officers commanding the royal guard. The terms rendered “Carians” and “Couriers” are obscure. Thenius prefers to translate the first “executioners.” (Comp. Notes on 1 Kings 1:38; 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 15:18; 2 Samuel 16:6; 1 Chronicles 18:17.) Thenius argues against the idea that so patriotic and pious a king as David could have employed foreign and heathen soldiers as his body-guard. But did not David himself serve as a mercenary with Achish, king of Gath, and commit his parents to the care of the king of Moab? And would not the mercenaries who enlisted in the guard of the Israelite sovereigns adopt the religion of their new country? (Comp. the case of Uriah the Hittite.) The apparently gentilic ending of the words rendered “Cherethites and Pelethites” in Samuel, and that rendered “captains” in this place, Thenius explains as marking an adjective denoting position or class. It may be so, but sub judice lis est.
Made a covenant with them.—The chronicler gives the names of the centurions. His account of the whole transaction, while generally coinciding with that given here, presents certain striking differences, of which the most salient is the prominence assigned to the priests and Levites in the matter. These deviations are explicable on the assumption that the chronicler drew his information from a large historical compilation somewhat later than the Books of Kings, and containing much more than they contain, though mainly based upon the same annalistic sources. The compilors of the two canonical histories were determined in their choice of materials and manner of treatment by their individual aims and points of view, which differed considerably. (See the Introductions to Kings and Chronicles.) At the same time, it must not be forgotten that the account before us is the older and more original, and, therefore, the more valuable regarded as mere history.
(5) A third part of you . . . king’s house.—Rather, the third of you who come in on the Sabbath shall keep the ward of the king’s house. (Reading w‘shām‘rû, as in 2 Kings 11:7.) The troops of the royal guard regularly succeeded each other on duty just as they do in modern European capitals. That the Sabbath was the day on which they relieved each other is known only from this passage; but the priestly and Levitical guilds did the same, and their organisation in many ways resembled that of an army.
The watch of the king’s house.—There were two places to be occupied for the success of the present movement—viz., the royal palace and the Temple, “the king’s house” and “the house of the Lord.” In the former was Athaliah, the usurping queen, whose movements must be closely watched, and whose adherents must be prevented from occupying and defending the palace; in the latter, the young heir to the throne, who must be protected from attack. That “the king’s house” here means the palace proper is evident from 2 Kings 11:16; 2 Kings 11:19, and, indeed, from the whole narrative. The LXX. adds, “at the entry” (ἐν τῷ πυλῶνι)—i.e., the grand entrance to the palace itself. This is at least a correct gloss, and may be part of the original text.
And a third part at the gate behind the guard.—Literally, and the third at the gate behind the Couriers. In 2 Kings 11:19 “the gate of the Couriers” is mentioned, apparently as the principal entrance to the palace enclosure. That gate and this one are probably the same. It is here called “the gate behind the Couriers” because a guard was usually stationed in front of it. Perhaps the word “behind” has originated in a mere echo of the word “gate” (‘ahar, sha’ar), and should be omitted as an error of transcription.
So shall ye keep the watch of the house.—Thus shall ye—the three divisions of the guards, entering on duty on the Sabbath—guard the entrances and exits of the royal palace.
That it be not broken down.—The Hebrew is only the one word massāh, which occurs nowhere else. It appears to mean “repulse,” “warding off,” and is probably a marginal gloss on “watch” (mishmèreth), explaining its nature—viz., that the guards were to keep back any one who tried to enter the palace buildings. Gesenius paraphrases, “ad depellendum populum” (zum Abwehren). Thenius suggests the reading “and repel”! scil., “all comers” (ûnesōah for massāh). He should have written wenāsôah.
(7) And two parts of all you . . . sabbath.—Rather, and the two branches among you, all that go out on the Sabbath. The two “branches” means the two fundamental divisions—viz., Carians (or executioners) and Couriers. The troops relieved on the Sabbath were not to be posted in three companies at three different points, like those who came on duty in their place; but they were to form in two ranks—Carians on one side and Couriers on the other—for the purpose of guarding the Temple, and especially the king’s person.
About.—Literally, in the direction of—i.e., with regard to, over. “The house of the Lord” is obviously contrasted with “the king’s house” (2 Kings 11:5).
(8) Ye shall compass the king round about.—They were to form two lines, between which the king might walk safely from the Temple to the palace.
The ranges.—Rather, the ranks—scil., the two lines of the guard formed for the protection of the king. If any one attempted to force his way through the ranks in order to attack the king he was to be slain.
Be ye with the king . . . cometh in.—When he leaves the Temple, and when he enters the palace.
(9) The captains over the hundreds—i.e., the centurions of the royal guard (2 Kings 11:4). So in 2 Kings 11:10.
And the temple.—And at the Temple. The guard formed in two lines, extending from the south wall to the north wall of the court, one line standing at the altar of burnt offering, which was near the entrance, the other at the sanctuary itself. The words “round about the king” are anticipative.
And gave him the testimony.—The Hebrew has simply and the testimony. Kimchi explains this to mean a royal robe; other rabbis think of a phylactery on the coronet. (See Deuteronomy 6:8.) Thenius says, the Law—i.e., a book in which were written Mosaic ordinances, and which was held in a symbolic manner over the king’s head after he had been crowned. (See Note on 2 Chronicles 23:11.)
Anointed him.—The chronicler says it was “Jehoiada and his sons” who did it. It is difficult to see what objection can fairly be taken to this explanatory addition, unless we are to suppose that, although the high priest was present, the soldiers of the guard poured the sacred oil on the king’s head. Yet Thenius adduces it as an instance of the “petty spirit of the chronist,” accusing him of inserting the words “for fear anybody should think of an anointing by unconsecrated hands.” Surely such criticism as this is itself both “petty” and “wilful.” The words probably stood in the chronicler’s principal source.
God save the king.—Literally, Vivat rex. (1 Kings 1:25.)
The guard.—The Aramaic form of the plural, rare in prose, occurs here. (Comp. 1 Kings 11:33.) In 2 Chronicles 23:11 the words are transposed. This gives a different sense—viz., “of the people running together” to which is added, “and acclaiming the king.” The chronicler may have found this in the work he followed, but the text before us seems preferable, as the word “runners” (Couriers) throughout the account means the royal guard.
The people.—See Note on 2 Kings 11:14.
She came . . . into the temple.—Evidently, therefore, the palace was hard by the Temple. (See Note on 2 Kings 11:16.)
The king stood by a pillar.—Rather, the king was standing on the stand. (Comp. 2 Kings 23:3.) The stand (Vulg., “tribunal”) was apparently a dais reserved for the king only, which stood before the great altar, at the entrance to the inner court (2 Chronicles 23:13; 2 Chronicles 6:13). Thenius maintains that the king stood on the top of the flight of steps leading into the sanctuary. Why, then, does not the text express this meaning more exactly? (Comp. 2 Kings 9:13.)
As the manner was—i.e., according to the custom on such occasions.
The princes.—The chiefs of the people, not the centurions of the royal guard, who have their full designation throughout the chapter. (See 2 Kings 11:4; 2 Kings 11:9-10; 2 Kings 11:15; 2 Kings 11:19.) The present account has nowhere stated that the nobles were present in the Temple; but this sudden mention of them, as if they had been present throughout the proceedings, is in striking harmony with the chronicler’s express assertion that, after their conference with Jehoiada, the centurions of the guard assembled the Levites and the heads of the clans in the Temple (2 Chronicles 23:3). (The LXX. and Vulg. render “singers,” because they read shārîm, “singers,” instead of sārîm, “princes.”)
The trumpeters.—Literally, the trumpets; as we speak of “the violins,” meaning the players on them. The sacred trumpets or clarions blown on solemn occasions by the priests are intended. (Comp. 2 Kings 12:14; Numbers 10:2; 1 Chronicles 15:24.) This is an indication that the priests and Levites were present as the chronicle so conspicuously represents, and as, indeed, was to be expected on an occasion when the high priest took the lead, and when the scene of action was the Temple. The acting classes of priests and Levitical musicians, warders, and priestly attendants must certainly have participated in the proceedings.
All the people of the land.—Secrecy was no longer necessary, as Thenius supposes, when once the centurions of the guard had heartily taken up with the plot.
Rejoiced . . . blew.—Rejoicing . . . blowing.
Have her forth without the ranges.—Rather, Cause her to go out between the ranks—i.e., escort her out of the sacred precincts with a guard on both sides.
Him that followeth her—i.e., whoever shows any sympathy with her, or attempts to take her part. There might have been some of her partisans in the large gathering in the Temple court.
For the priest had said.—This is a parenthetic statement accounting for the order just given; and “had said” may mean “thought.”
She went . . . king’s house.—She entered the palace by way of the entry of the horses. Athaliah was conducted to the royal stables which adjoined the palace, and there put to death.
That they should be the Lord’s people.—Comp. Deuteronomy 4:20; Exodus 19:5-6.
Between the king also and the people.—For the protection of their mutual rights and prerogatives. (Comp. 1 Samuel 10:25.) The king was bound to govern according to the law of Jehovah—“the testimony” which had been put upon him (2 Kings 11:12). (Comp. Note on 2 Chronicles 23:16.) The people were to be loyal to the house of David.
His altars . . . his images.—Or, its (the Temple’s) altars . . . its images.
And the priest appointed officers over the house of the Lord.—The obviously close connection of this statement with what precedes, almost proves that the sanctuary of Baal had stood within the Temple precincts, probably in the outer court. After the destruction of it, Jehoiada appointed certain overseers—probably Levites of rank—to prevent any future desecration of the Temple by the practice of idolatrous rites (comp. Ezekiel 8:5-16), or by wanton attacks of the Baal-worshippers, who might be cowed, but were certainly not exterminated (comp. 2 Chronicles 24:7); and to see that the legitimate cultus was properly carried out. (The sentence tells us what was done some time afterwards, in consequence of the reformation; thus finishing the subject in hand at the expense of the strict order of time.)
Mattan.—Mattan is short for Mattanbaal, “gift of Baal,” a Phœnician name occurring in Punic and Assyrian inscriptions (the Muthumballes of Plautus). Comp. also Mitinna and Mattén, as names of Tyrian kings (Inscr. of Tig. Pil. ii.; Herod. Vii. 98).
The rulers . . . guard.—Rather, the captains of the hundreds (the centurions) and the Carians and the Couriers; or, as Thenius prefers, the lictors and the satellites.
They brought down the king from the house of the Lord.—Down from the Temple to the bridge connecting Moriah with Zion.
And came by the way . . . king’s house.—Rather, and entered the king’s house by way of the gate of the Couriers. This gate, therefore, belonged not to the Temple, but to the palace, and was probably the chief entrance thereto.
And he sat on the throne.—The proceedings ended with the solemn enthronement of the king in the palace of his fathers. (The LXX. reads more suitably: “And they seated him on the throne;” so Chronicles.)
The city was in quiet.—The citizens of Jerusalem accepted the revolution without attempting any counter movement. No doubt there was a strong element of Baal-worshippers and partisans of Athaliah in the capital. “The people of the land” (i.e., probably, the people whom the centurions had called together from the country, at the instance of Jehoiada, according to 2 Chronicles 23:2) are contrasted with the burghers of Jerusalem. The phrase, “the city was in quiet” (or “had rest,” Judges 5:31), may, however, possibly refer to the deliverance from the tyranny of Athaliah.
And they slew Athaliah.—Rather, and Athaliah they had slain; an emphatic recurrence to the real climax of the story (2 Kings 11:16), by way of conclusion.
Beside.—Rather, in, i.e., within the palace enclosure.