Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. DISREGARDED OF GOD AND MAN. For such men as Joash the prophet of the Lord has no word of general commendation, though he has words of rebuke to utter (vers. 19, 20). With them God "is not well pleased." And man is also and equally dissatisfied. Men that are wrong and strong will find their advocates; indeed, they find all too many to honour and praise them, both while they live and when they are departed. But men that are good and weak find none to admire them. They may start, as Joash apparently did, with fair intentions and blameless desires, but they have no force of character, and being "driven with the wind and tossed," carried about hither and thither according to the passing breeze, they are the object of disregard, if not of positive contempt. There is nothing honourable or admirable in them.
II. FRUITLESS OF ANY POSITIVE GOOD. Such men as Joash may do some good during one half of their life, or at different parts of their life; but the good they then do is counterbalanced by the harm they work during the other half or on other occasions; and no one can say which prevails over the other. The measure of many a man's life-influence is a nice sum in spiritual subtraction; and when everything is known it will perhaps be found to be a "negative quantity." It is a poor and a pitiful thing to see a man first building up and then pulling down; one day working with the people of God and the next associating with the enemies of true and pure religion; subscribing to a Christian charity and attending a demoralizing spectacle; pulling in contrary directions. What can such a man do? What witness can he bear, what work achieve, what contribution bring to the great end we should have in view - the elevation of our kind? That will be represented by a cypher - or something worse.
III. UNNECESSARY. It may indeed be said that this is a question of natural endowment, and rests with our Creator and not with ourselves; that men receive from him either strength and force of will or else pliancy of spirit, sensitiveness of soul and readiness to be affected by influences from outside. This is true, in part; but it is not the whole truth. We must not make our heavenly Father responsible for our short-comings. Moral weakness is a defect of character. It is the result of a wrong choice.
1. Let a man give himself, as he should, in full surrender to the God whoso he is and whom he is most sacredly bound to serve, to that Divine Saviour who has bought him with the price of his own redeeming blood, and he will then be in the way of gaining single-heartedness and strength.
2. Let him be regularly and repeatedly renewing his act of self-dedication. Joash did, when he was a child, pledge himself to the service of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 23:16). But he was then too young to understand all that such a covenant meant. He should have continually renewed that solemn pledge. We have the amplest opportunities and invitations to reconsecrate ourselves to the service of Christ, and if we accept these, we shall retain our thorough loyalty to him, and then we shall not be moved and swayed, but be "steadfast and immovable."
3. Let him gain strength from above. There is an unfailing Divine resource on which all the good may draw. "When I am weak, then am I strong," said Paul. For when he was most conscious of his own insufficiency, then he looked up for help to the "Lord of all power and might," to him who can and will "strengthen us with strength in our soul," who will "strengthen us with all might by his Spirit in the inner man," who will make us strong
(1) to endure;
(2) to overcome;
(3) to bear witness;
(4) to labour in the holy fields of Christian work. - C.
I. HIS PARENTAGE.
1. His father. Jehoabaz, Ahaziah, or Azariah (2 Chronicles 21:17; 2 Chronicles 22:1, 6), Jehoram's youngest son, who ascended the throne on his father's death, reigned one year, was slain by Jehu (2 Chronicles 22:9), and buried in Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David, because, though himself bad, he was a good man's son (2 Chronicles 22:9).
2. His mother. Zibiah of Beersheba, concerning whom nothing is known. Perhaps beautiful, as her name "Gazelle" may suggest; considering who her husband was, it will not be safe to say she was good, though the place she came from once had an aroma of piety about it (Genesis 21:33).
II. HIS REIGN.
1. Early begun. When seven years old. Such early promotion would not have been safe for the kingdom (Ecclesiastes 10:16) or good for himself had Jehoiada not been beside him as counsellor of his inexperience, and, in fact, as virtual ruler.
2. Long continued. Forty years. Shorter by fifteen than that of Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:1), his occupation of the throne was only one year shorter than that of Ass (2 Chronicles 16:13), and as long as that of Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30).
III. HIS CHARACTER.
1. Promising. "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord." But:
2. Imperfect. "The high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places" (2 Kings 12:3). And:
3. Unstable. He behaved well only so long as Jehoiada lived to counsel, and perhaps restrain him.
IV. HIS MARRIAGES. "Jehoiada took for him two wives," one of whom was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 25:1). Perhaps:
1. Good policy, to ensure a succession to the throne. But:
2. Bad morality, and against the Law of God, though recommended by a pious priest, and sanctioned by the example of godly kings. Joash's subsequent declension may have been in part due to this. Learn:
1. That early greatness is not always accompanied by early goodness.
2. That many begin to run well in youth who nevertheless decline in after-years.
3. That religious education is not sufficient in itself to overcome the force of inbred corruption.
4. That permanence is an indispensable quality in all moral and spiritual excellence.
5. That all the opinions of a good man are not necessarily good.
6. That good men sometimes occasion sin in others. - W.
I. CHURCH RENOVATION. Here were all the elements that ordinarily occur.
1. Dilapidation, or the condition of being out of repair. In this case there had been profanation, deliberate injury, spoliation (ver. 7); but always there will be waste and decay even in "the house of the Lord." The elements of nature do not spare the most sacred sanctuary.
2. An energetic leader. Joash signalized his otherwise ordinary career by taking this matter much to heart and taking it thoroughly in hand. He prompted Jehoiada himself; he incited the hesitating priests (vers. 5-9); he called forth the energy of the people themselves.
3. Co-operation. "All the princes and all the people rejoiced" when they were zealously engaged in the work, and the masons and the carpenters did their part regularly and faithfully (2 Kings 12:15).
4. Liberality. When the chest was made the people responded freely; they all "cast into it until they made an end," until there was "much money," "money in abundance." When an appeal is made to the spontaneous liberality of Christian men, in a cause that is recognized to be good, there is usually a response. If under the Law there was this readiness to give, how much more should there be such forwardness and consecration of substance under the more constraining influences and for the/at higher privileges of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
5. Perseverance under discouragement. The king charged the priests and Levites to "hasten the matter. Howbeit the Levites hastened it not" (ver. 5). But the enthusiastic king was not to be daunted; he would not let this slackness on the part of those who should have been eager and diligent constitute any serious stumbling-block. He used his ingenuity to devise other and more effective measures, and his determination prevailed, as it will prevail. If we allow a good work to be dropped because some of our coadjutors are found wanting, we shall do but little. A holy perseverance under discouragement is the condition of success. As with the leaders, so with those that follow; the workmen must patiently continue until the work is perfected. Then comes the crowning circumstance, viz.:
6. The use of the building for the worship of God (vet, 14). We pass on to that which is far more important -
II. THE RENOVATION OF THE CHRISTIAN CAUSE.
1. It may be that the cause of Christ is quite "out of repair." Some "sons of Athaliah" have come in and done devastating work. Where there was all that satisfied the observant eye of the Divine Lord, there is now a sad decline and decay; there is feebleness where there should be strength, barrenness where there used to be fruitfulness, poverty and paucity where there once was fulness. There are unsightly and blameworthy breaches in the walls. Then there arises in some heart:
2. A strong, compelling eagerness to repair. First it fills one heart, then it is communicated to another and another; finally it moves "all the people," and they resolve that the flagging cause of Christ shall be revived.
3. Then they give themselves to
(1) penitence for past neglect;
(2) prayer for Divine inspiration and guidance;
(3) solemn renewal of first vows of dedication;
(4) active and energetic work.
4. Their reconsecration is crowned with sacred joy, and with a happy restoration to the end for which they were called into existence (ver. 14). All this is based upon -
III. THE RENEWAL OF THE INDIVIDUAL HEART. For if the cause of Christ has declined, it is because the spiritual life of the individual men has been languishing. There has been a cooling of love, a lessening of faith, an abatement of zeal, a lack of devotion. What is needed is:
1. A sense of departure and loss.
2. A humbling of the heart before God.
3. A reconsecration of heart and life to the Redeemer.
4. A patient continuance in well-doing. - C.
I. THE CONTEMPLATED WORK.
1. The reparation of the house of the Lord.
(1) What this signified. The reconstruction, not of the whole but of such parts of the temple walls and edifices as had been overturned and destroyed. A project both becoming and right - becoming that Jehovah's house should be restored to its pristine completeness and beauty (1 Chronicles 22:3); right, inasmuch as on Judah had been devolved the duty of protecting and preserving it (2 Chronicles 7:16-22). In the same way is it proper for, and incumbent on, believers to have regard to the strength and beauty, symmetry and adornment, not merely of the material edifices, but also and chiefly of the spiritual temples of the Christian Church.
(2) Why this was needed. On account, not of the ravages of time upon its massive masonry, but of the demolition it had suffered at the hands of Athaliah (and Jehoram) in order to construct the temple of Baal, whose walls and pillars, altars and images, had just been broken in pieces by the revolutionaries of Judah (2 Chronicles 23:17). So by false systems of religion, as well as by systems of no religion, have breaches sometimes been made in the Christian Church - adherents seduced from the faith, doctrines obscured, perverted, or rendered inoperative - which demand the utmost efforts of Christians to repair, even after the false systems, like Baal's temple, have been shattered to pieces.
(3) By whom this was projected. By Joash, who, even if not impelled by higher motives, certainly had reason to remember the house in which his infant years had been sheltered, and himself when a boy had received his crown. If Joash moved in this matter of his own accord, the fact spoke well for his goodness; if even he required to be urged to it by Jehoiada - which is not stated - the fact that he listened to the priest attested the reverence he possessed for Jehovah's servant. The pity was that neither his goodness nor his reverence were deeply rooted or permanent.
(4) When this was moved. "After this," an indefinite note of time which might mean either after the revolution or after Joash's marriages. If the former, which is doubtful, the king evinced praiseworthy alacrity - if his business demanded haste (ver. 5), much more did God's (2 Chronicles 15:15; 2 Chronicles 31:21; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Romans 12:11); if the latter, his dilatoriness was not without blame (Matthew 6:33).
2. The replacement of the dedicated things which had been bestowed upon the Baalim (ver. 7). Not the dedicated things Solomon had brought into the temple (2 Chronicles 5:1); the spoil, in articles of gold and silver, David had taken from his enemies (1 Kings 7:51), since these had been pillaged and carried off by Shishak (2 Chronicles 12:9); probably the silver, gold, and vessels dedicated by Abijah, Asa (2 Chronicles 15:18), and Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 12:18); the spoil taken by the first from Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:16), by the second from the Cushites (2 Chronicles 14:12), and by the third from the Ammonites (2 Chronicles 21:25).
II. WAYS AND MEANS. Two plans for obtaining the money requisite for the undertaking.
1. The plan that failed.
(1) What it was. That the priests and Levites should in all the cities of Judah raise a contribution to repair the house of God (ver. 5); that the amount levied from each man should be "the tax of Moses the servant of the Lord, and of the congregation of Israel, for the tent of the testimony" (ver. 6); and that this should be done annually (ver. 5). In 2 Kings (2 Kings 12:4) the money is defined as of three sorts (Keil):
(a) The "money of the numbered," or, "of every one that passeth the numbering," i.e. the poll tax of half a shekel required of every Israelite as a ransom for his soul (Exodus 30:12-16);
(b) the "money of the persons for whom each man is rated," i.e. the sums arising from the redemption of devoted persons (Leviticus 27:1-8); and
(c) "the money that it cometh into any man's heart to bring into the house of the Lord," i.e. the free-will offerings of the people. According to another interpretation (Bahr), only the two last sorts were intended, and the phrase, "money of the numbered," should be rendered "in current money" (Revised Version) - the reason for this instruction that the contributions should be in current money being, it is said, that the money "was to be paid out at once to mechanics for their labour" (Thenius).
(a) their dilatoriness in setting about the work entrusted to them - that the work should have been entrusted to them was the first mistake in the proposed plan;
(b) the difficulty they had in gathering in the money, which from the manner of its levying had the appearance of a compulsory payment - this the second mistake in the proposed plan; and
(c) the too lavish expenditure demanded by their own personal necessities (a legitimate charge upon the collected funds), leaving too small a balance for the work of temple-repairing - that the priests should have been left to distribute the taxes and offerings of the people between their own needs and the public requirements was the third mistake in the proposed plan.
"If self the wavering balance shake,
2. The plan that succeeded.
(1) The details of the new plan. According to 2 Kings, the work of collecting money for themselves, the temple worship, and the repair of the building was no more to be entrusted to their hands, neither were these three items of expense to be in future defrayed out of a common fund; but the trespass-money and sin-money should be assigned to the priests for the first two of these purposes, as the Law of Moses prescribed (Leviticus 5:16; Numbers 5:8), while the taxes and the free-will offerings should be devoted to the third (2 Kings 12:7-16). According to the Chronicler, whose statements are supported by those of the Book of Kings, by Joash's command a chest or collection-box of wood was made with a hole bored in its lid, and placed "without at the gate of the house of the Lord," i.e. in the outer court "beside the altar as one cometh into the house of the Lord" (2 Kings 12:9). Next a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem that the people should themselves, of their own free will and pleasure, bring in the temple rates prescribed by the Law, and the free-will offerings to which they were impelled by their own hearts, and deposit these, unseen by any eye but Jehovah's, into the box. Again, it was arranged that, as often as the chest or box was full, it should be conveyed by the hands of the Levites into the king's office, where the money should be emptied out by or before the king's secretary and the high priest's assistant, who should put it into bags, weigh it and hand it over to them "that did the service of the house of the Lord," after which the chest should be carried back again to its place at the temple gate.
(2) The recommendations of the new plan. It avoided the mistakes of the first scheme. It put the work into the hands of a board of oversight better fitted to command the confidence of the community. It avoided the irritating weapon of compulsion, and relied upon the free will of the people, even with regard to the levying of taxes. It simplified the financial arrangements by keeping the money given for the temple separate from that paid to the priests.
(3) The success of the new plan. The people entered into it as their forefathers had done when invited to contribute towards the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:21, etc.), universally - "all the princes and all the people cast into the chest;" cheerfully, with no sense of constraint or compulsion upon them - "they rejoiced;" liberally - money was "gathered in abundance;" unweariedly - not once or twice merely, but regularly and constantly they went on with their collecting "until they had made an end," i.e. of the enterprise they had in hand, the repairing of the temple. N.B. - The above principles should regulate Christian giving, which should be universal - "every one of you" (1 Corinthians 16:2); cheerful - "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7); liberal - "see that ye abound in this grace [of liberality] also" (2 Corinthians 8:7); constant - "to do good and to communicate forget not" (Hebrews 13:16).
III. THE WORK EXECUTED. From the money thus collected:
1. The cost of materials was defrayed. "Timber and hewn stone," at least, had to be bought (2 Kings 12:12).
2. The wages of workmen were paid. Masons, carpenters, and workers in iron and brass were hired.
3. The necessary vessels were constructed. The surplus money, after meeting the above charges, was devoted to the manufacture of gold and silver utensils for the temple service. "So the workmen wrought," etc. (ver. 13). Learn:
1. The duty of Christian giving, which may be inferred, a fortiori, from this example of the Hebrew Church.
2. The superiority of the voluntary over the compulsory system of raising money for religious purposes, even should the latter be. deemed permissible.
3. The propriety of financial boards, especially those connected with the Church, being above suspicion.
4. The wisdom of aiming at simplicity in schemes for receiving the contributions of the faithful.
5. The advantage of adopting such measures as shall place Church-treasurers beyond the reach of temptation. - W.
I. A NOBLE CHARACTER. And this:
1. Was based upon true piety. Jehoiada was the man he was because he was a faithful servant of Jehovah. He was rich "toward God." His mind and heart were turned toward him, to worship in his house, to study and to do his will, to promote his glory. Everything else that was good in him rested on his religious conviction and practice as on a sure foundation; every other virtue took its root and found its source and spring in that.
2. Acquired great strength. By the exercise and cultivation of his piety and moral worth, by his confidence in God, and by all that he daily gained from God in response to his devotion, he acquired great force of goodness. He was a man that "seemed to be a pillar," and who was such; a strong stay, which no antagonism could remove, no treachery undermine. He "stood foursquare to all the winds that blew." Men felt that in him they would find a determined and powerful enemy to whatever evil thing they might propose.
3. Shone forth in unselfish service. He fearlessly and nobly risked everything in order to rid his country of a vile usurper, and place upon the throne one that would rule in righteousness. And though he certainly lent all the weight of his influence to the support of the sovereign, he does not appear to have arrogated any undue authority (see ver. 6). He was actuated by a pure, magnanimous devotion to the highest interests of his country. So he lived -
II. A USEFUL LIFE.
1. He effected a most desirable and salutary revolution; overturning a dynasty that had no right to the throne, and restoring the family of David; exchanging an idolatrous ruler for one that reigned in the fear of God.
2. He solemnly pledged the people to the service of Jehovah, and arranged for systematic services in his temple (2 Chronicles 23:16-18).
3. He sustained the hand of Joash in his work of repairing the temple. This we might assume, but this the words of the text, "toward his house," clearly indicate.
4. He did much (as the following verses show) to maintain the worship of God in the land, against all reactionary influences, whether at court or among the princes or the people. He "did good to Israel" indeed. If we except the judges and kings as those whose official positions gave them quite exceptional opportunities, we may safely say that there are not more than three or four men who rendered such distinguished service to their country as Jehoiada the priest. He was well worthy, when he died in an honoured old age, to be "buried among the kings." Probably few kinglier men than he have been "gathered to their fathers." We learn:
1. That honour rests upon faithful service, on true usefulness - such honour as is worth possessing.
2. That usefulness is the product of excellency of character. Men may be eloquent, ambitious, capable, endowed with large administrative abilities, but if they are not unselfish, if they do not know how to subordinate their own aims and interests to the public weal, they are as likely to be harmful as helpful in their course. Only solid worth of character, rectitude allied with patriotism and philanthropy, is any security for substantial usefulness.
3. That character is only sound when it is sacred; that it is only the man who reveres God, and who places himself and his life under Divine guidance, on whom we can thoroughly rely. All other defences and inspirations fail. "The fear of God" of which the devout Israelite spoke, the love and service of Jesus Christ of which we speak, - this is the rock on which to build a noble character and a useful life. - C.
I. JEHOIADA'S LIFE.
1. Pious; i.e.
(1) Good. No man really pious who is not inwardly good.
(2) Sincere. As a priest of Jehovah, he was under solemn covenant to lead a holy life.
(3) Courageous. It required no small heroism to stand forth as a servant of Jehovah in the days of Ahaziah and Athaliah.
2. Useful. "We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths," etc. (Bailey). Jehoiada's life was spent, not in indolence, but activity; this activity was directed, not by personal ambitions, but by considerations of public advantage, and ceased not until the close of his life. Besides discharging the multifarious duties devolving upon him as high priest of the nation, he practically became the nation's leader during the times of Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah; the nation's saviour, effecting the overthrow of Athaliah, the preservation of Joash, and in him the continuance of David's throne; and the nation's ruler, acting as regent during Joash's minority, and as prime minister of Joash until the end came. In particular, to him the nation owed the preservation of its king, its throne, its religion, its temple.
3. Long. Nevertheless, the end came, though long delayed. He died "full of days," satisfied with living, like Abraham (Genesis 25:8), Isaac (Genesis 35:29), David (1 Chronicles 23:1), and Job (Job 42:17), an old man of a hundred and thirty years, the longest recorded life of any Hebrew, the patriarchs excepted. "What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?" etc. (Psalm 34:12-14).
II. JEHOIADA'S DEATH.
1. To himself a gain. (Philippians 1:21.)
2. To Joash a loss. (2 Kings 2:3.) Jehoiada's death the removal of
(1) the saviour of his infancy;
(2) the teacher of his boyhood;
(3) the counsellor of his manhood. Whether Joash recognized the greatness of his loss may be doubtful. The notion that he felt the decease of the grey-haired priest as something of a relief is not without countenance.
3. To the nation a calamity. (2 Samuel 3:38.) Born to be a king, Joash wanted the capacity to rule. The fittest man to have sat upon the throne was Jehoiada. Only Divine providence does not always assign men the posts for which they are best qualified. The incompetency of Joash would have earlier proved a curse to Judah had the statesman-priest not been at his elbow. So long as Jehoiada kept his hand upon the helm, the ship of state sailed over stormiest seas with safety; when death compelled his grasp to relax, the vessel's rocking amid the tumbling waves showed how capable a pilot he bad been.
III. JEHOIADA'S BURIAL.
1. National. The people paid him public obsequies. Not the king alone, but the entire realm lamented him, and joined in the sad ceremonial of consigning his lifeless body to the tomb. Public funerals are often gigantic hypocrisies. Not of such sort was this of the great priest of Jerusalem.
2. Royal. The grandeur of his obsequies equalled that lavished on the funerals of kings. Of some kings, among whom Joash must be numbered (ver. 25), it is recorded that the people declined to honour them with royal burial (2 Chronicles 21:19, 20; 2 Chronicles 26:23; 2 Chronicles 28:27); of Jehoiada, though not a king, except in nobility of soul, it is written, his people "buried him in the city of David among the kings" - as it were recognizing in him a sovereign greater than many, and equal to the best.
IV. JEHOIADA'S EPITAPH.
1. Short. One sentence of three clauses: "He did good in Israel, both toward God, and towards his house." Nothing more offensive to good taste and refined feeling, not to say more untrue to fact, than the fulsome and extravagant paragraphs which often appear on tombstones.
2. Simple. All who read might understand, and, understanding, might verify from their own experience, assisted (if need were) by the recollections of others. The last place at which to make a display of eloquence and rhetoric is the grave's month. What is here recorded of this uncrowned King of Judah stands in startling contrast with the magniloquence of Egyptian and Assyrian kings.
3. Sufficient. What more or better could be testified of any man than that in his lifetime he had done good, lived a life of piety towards God and of philanthropy towards man, promoted God's glory and advanced man's good, furthered God's kingdom and increased man's happiness? Learn:
1. The possibility of combining statesmanship and piety.
2. The commanding influence of religion when associated with talent and rank.
3. The advisability of looking beyond man in both Church and state, since statesmen and priests are not suffered to continue by reason of death.
4. The certainty that a life of philanthropy and piety will sooner or later find recognition.
5. The fitness of rewarding with becoming honour in death those who sincerely and successfully serve their generation when in life. - W.
I. DEPARTURE FROM THE LIVING GOD. Not being "rooted and grounded" in reverence and in attachment to Jehovah, as soon as the directing and sustaining hand of Jehoiada was missed, Joash gave heed to the evil counsel of the reactionary "princes of Judah" and "left the house of the Lord." The young may be habituated to sacred services, and they may be brought up in the practice of good behaviour, but if they have not fully and firmly attached themselves to the Divine Lord whose praises they have been singing and whose will they have been respecting, their piety will not endure. "Being let go," being released, as they must be in time, from the human restraints that hold them to the right course, they follow the bent of worldly inclination; it may be that they yield to the solicitation of unholy passion; but they decline from the path of Christian worship and godly service. It is a melancholy sight for the angels of God, and for all earnest human souls, to witness - that of a man who knows what is best, who has stood face to face with Christ, who has often worshipped in his house, and perhaps sat at his table, declining to lower paths, "going after Baal," letting another power than that of his gracious Lord rule his heart and occupy his life.
II. RESENTMENT AT THE DIVINE REBUKE. The true and honoured servant of the Lord, Jehoiada, was well succeeded by a faithful son, Zechariah. He did his work right nobly, and testified against the apostasy of the king and court. But the monarch, in the haughtiness of his heart, resented the rebuke of the Lord's prophet, and only aggravated his offence by persecution and even murder (vers. 20, 21). Thus sin slopes down, and at some points with sad and startling rapidity. When God's rebuke is heard, coming through the voice of one of his ministers, or coming in his Divine providence; and when that rebuke, instead of being heeded and obeyed, is resented by the rebellious spirit, then there ensues a very rapid spiritual decline. Men go "from bad to worse," from indifference or forgetfulness to hostility, from doubt to disbelief, from laxity to licentiousness, from wrongness of attitude to iniquity in action. To resent the rebuke of the Lord is to inflict upon ourselves the most serious, and too often a mortal, injury.
III. THE PENALTY OF DISOBEDIENCE. In the case of Joash, it was:
1. Humiliating defeat in battle (vers. 23, 24).
2. Bodily sufferings (ver. 25).
3. A violent and miserable death (ver. 25).
4. Dishonour after death (ver. 25).
In the case of the spiritual transgressor now, the penalty that has to be feared is:
1. Grave and grievous spiritual decline.
2. The serious displeasure of the Divine Master.
3. The loss of the esteem of the truest and best human friends.
4. Condemnation in the day of judgment. - C.
I. JOASH'S TEMPTATION. (Ver. 17.)
1. When it came. "After Jehoiada's death,", when the weakling king, having lost his counsellor, was left to the guidance of his own vain heart and foolish understanding. Temptations mostly assail men in their moments of weakness. Eve was probably assaulted in the absence of Adam (Genesis 3:1); David, certainly, in the absence of Nathan (2 Samuel 11:2); Job, when enfeebled through affliction (Job 2:9); Peter, when deprived of strength through over-confidence (John 13:27). The devil is too wary a warrior to besiege a heart when at its strongest.
2. How it looked.
(1) Extremely pleasing; flattering to his vanity and satisfying to his pride. "The princes of Judah came, and made obeisance to him."
(2) Perfectly harmless. What they asked may be assumed to have been liberty to worship the Asherim and the idols (ver. 18); not that the king should do so, though secretly they may have hoped he would, but merely that toleration should be granted to them. Tempters seldom show all their hands at once; if they did, their temptations would fail (Proverbs 1:17). To the tempted also evil courses commonly appear safe when first embarked upon; though afterwards their tree characters are discovered, when too late.
3. How it fared. It prospered. Joash, poor fool! swallowed the bait. "He hearkened unto them," because either he wanted courage to refuse, or desired, in return for their flattery, to please them (Daniel 11:32).
II. JUDAH'S DECLENSION. (Ver. 18.)
1. The princes. These "left the house of the Lord God of their fathers," i.e. abandoned the worship of Jehovah, of which the temple was the centre, and embraced the abominable superstitions of the northern kingdom and of the preceding reigns in Judah. On the worship of the Asherim and idols, see 2 Chronicles 14:3 (homily).
2. The people. The language of the Chronicler (ver. 18), as well as of Zechariah (ver. 20), implies that Judah and Jerusalem, in their people as well as princes, had transgressed; and, indeed, it is hardly likely that the princes would have ventured upon this step had they not been able to count upon the sympathy, if not the direct support, of the community.
3. The king. Though "not stated that Joash himself worshipped idols" (Bertheau), and though, perhaps, at first he did not, it is too apparent, from the moral deterioration he suffered, as well as from the judgment he endured, that his offence was more than "not strictly maintaining the worship of Jehovah" (Bertheau).
III. JEHOVAH'S CORRECTION. (Ver. 19.)
1. Its instruments. The prophets; in particular, Zechariah the son - perhaps grandson (Eadie, Ebrard, Lange, Morison) - of Jehoiada (ver. 20), called also Barachias (Matthew 23:35). The prophets, of whom many have appeared in this book - Nathan (2 Chronicles 9:29), Ahijah (2 Chronicles 10:15), Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:1), Hanani (2 Chronicles 16:7), Micaiah (2 Chronicles 18:8), Jehu (2 Chronicles 19:2), Jahaziel (2 Chronicles 20:14), Elijah (2 Chronicles 21:12) - were the recognized medium of communication between God and the people. The prophets at this time sent to testify for Jehovah against the people are not named, with one exception; which may suggest that one may be an honoured, true, and faithful servant of God in Church or state, and may render important services to both without having his name chronicled on the registers of time.
2. its tenor. A testimony against the nation, in terms similar to those of Zechariah. Their idol-worship was:
(2) An express violation of the covenant into which they had entered with Jehovah (2 Chronicles 23:16).
3. Its reception. "They would not give ear." Unwilling to obey, they would not listen. The truth was unpalatable, and hence they rejected it. They loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil (John 3:19); they hated the truth, because it condemned them (Psalm 50:17; Amos 5:10).
IV. ZECHARIAH'S ASSASSINATION. (Ver. 20.) A deed of:
1. Atrocious inhumanity. Murdered by his countrymen, the princes of Judah, in some sort his near kinsmen, considering that he himself was a collateral descendant of the royal line, his mother having been Ahaziah's sister (2 Chronicles 22:11).
2. Revolting cruelty. Stoned with stones. Lapidation, a peculiarly Jewish form of punishment, is described in the Mishna. "The condemned, if a man, was led naked to the place of torture, but a woman was allowed to retain her clothes. The offender was always taken out of the city ... All that was necessary was that the place should be in a valley, or foss, with steep banks, from the top of which one of the witnesses threw the accused down. If he fails on his back and is killed, well and good; if not, another witness throws a stone on his chest. The first stones were cast at the head, so as to hasten death and shorten the sufferings of the victim. There were no regular executioners. In the time of the kings, the sovereigns appointed men to carry out the sentence" (Stapfer, 'Palestine in the Time of Christ,' pp. 112, 113; cf. Keil's 'Archaologie,' § 153). This terrible mode of executing capital punishment the Law reserved for aggravated offences (Leviticus 20:2, 27; Leviticus 24:14; Numbers 15:35), in particular for practising and enticing to idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:10; Deuteronomy 18:5). Victims of stoning were, in Old Testament times, Achan (Joshua 7:25), Naboth (1 Kings 21:13), Hadoram (2 Chronicles 10:18), Zechariah; in New Testament times, Stephen (Acts 7:58), Paul (Acts 14:19), and (perhaps) Antipas (Revelation 2:13).
3. Gross profanity. Murdered in the court of Jehovah's house, "between the sanctuary and the altar" (Matthew 23:35), always regarded as an aggravation of the original crime (Lamentations 2:10), and a special form of defilement (Ezekiel 9:7). Jehoiada would not shed there the blood of Joash's grandmother (2 Chronicles 23:14); Joash did not hesitate to spill there the blood of Jehoiada's son.
4. Horrible impiety. Murdered, although a prophet of Jehovah (1 Kings 19:10); murdered, because he told them the truth (cf. John 8:40); murdered by men themselves guilty of death and deserving to be stoned (see above); murdered in Jehovah's house and before his altar, in defiance of his Law and contempt for his religion.
5. Monstrous ingratitude. Murdered "at the king's commandment;" done to death by a man to whom his father (or grandfather) had given life, education, a crown, a kingdom, a reformed religion, a settled country (2 Chronicles 22:11-23:21). The vocabulary of vituperation has been exhausted to set forth the wickedness, odiousness, and loathsomeness of this vice. It has been likened to "a sharp-toothed vulture," "a marble-hearted fiend, more hideous than the sea-monster;" it has been spoken of as "the most detestable act" a person can commit, a vice more abominable "than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness;" a monster whose tooth is keener than the winter wind. Nor is it too much to say that, amongst this hideous crew of God-forsaken wretches, Joash stands pre-eminent. A creature as mean anti despicable the earth surely is seldom called on to support and nourish.
6. Unavoidable avengement. Zechariah himself, feeling this, ere his eyes closed and his lips became silent in death, uttered a prayer or invocation, "The Lord look upon it, and require it," in reality a prediction which soon became a history. Contrast the prayer of Stephen for his murderers (Acts 7:60). Zechariah the murdered prophet, and Stephen the martyred deacon, each embodied and illustrated the spirit of the dispensation under which he lived; that under which Zechariah lived, a dispensation
(1) of law and penalty,
(2) of wrath and condemnation;
that under which Stephen flourished, a dispensation
(1) of grace and mercy, and
(2) of forgiveness and justification (2 Corinthians 3:7-11).
1. The danger of listening to flattery; it makes men, even kings, foolish.
2. The duty of resisting the first approaches of temptation. Obsta principiis.
3. The downward course of sin - Facilis descensus Averno (Virgil, 'AEneid,' 6:126).
4. The folly of forsaking God; it can only end in being forsaken by God.
5. The courage needed to be a true servant of God in any age. He who would speak for God will often require to speak against man.
6. The surest evidence of original and innate depravity is the fact that men do not naturally care for, but rather dislike, and are averse to, God's Word.
7. The certainty that they who will live godly must suffer persecution. God's witnesses are often slain (Revelation 11:7).
8. The baseness of ingratitude towards God; inferred from that of ingratitude towards man.
9. The contrast between the Law and the gospel; illustrated by Zechariah's imprecation and Stephen's invocation. 10. The certainty of Divine retribution: God will avenge his saints (Luke 18:7, S). - W.
I. JUDAH INVADED BY THE SYRIANS. (Ver. 23.) Zechariah had predicted that prosperity should no longer attend Judah in consequence of her apostasy from Jehovah (ver. 20); and, before breathing his last, had prayed, and so practically predicted (James 5:16), that Jehovah would avenge his murder upon the king, his princes, and people (ver. 22). That this incursion of Hazael (1 Kings 19:15), who had first assassinated Benhadad II. and seized upon the throne (2 Kings 8:7-15), and whose historicity is guaranteed by an inscription on Shalmaneser's black obelisk, which says, "In my eighteenth year, for the sixteenth time the Euphrates I crossed. Hazael of Damascus to battle came ... . In my twenty-first campaign, to the cities of Hazael of Damascus I went. Four of his fortresses I took" ('Records,' etc., 5:34, 35; Schrader, 'Keilinschriften,' p. 206) - that this incursion of the Syrian monarch into Judaean territory, as far even as to Jerusalem, was an instalment of the wrath which the nation's apostasy had stirred up against itself, several things convinced the Chronicler.
1. The time when it happened. "At the end," or revolution, "of the year." No doubt Divine judgment often tarries, and when it does inert are apt to question its existence (Psalm
1. 20). But sometimes it hastens on the heels of crime, as it did in the cases of Cain (Genesis 4:8, 9), Pharaoh (Exodus 14:27), Israel in Shittim (Numbers 25:4), the murderers of Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:12), Ahab (1 Kings 22:34-37), Haman (Esther 7:10), Judas (Acts 1:18; Matthew 27:5), and others; and their observers instinctively exclaim, "Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth" (Psalm 58:11).
2. The success it attained.
(1) The Syrian army, having probably conquered Israel, succeeded in capturing Gath, one of the five cities of the Philistines (Joshua 13:3), which David annexed to Judah (1 Chronicles 18:1), and which may still have belonged to the kingdom of Jonah.
(2) Next it moved upon Jerusalem, which was not far distant, and defeated the Judaean troops in a pitched battle, in which all the princes of Judah were cut off, and Joash himself seriously wounded.
(3) As an inducement to make peace and withdraw his forces from the capital, Hazael obtained from Joash "all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram, and Ahaziah his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated," which had been recovered from the temple of Baal (ver. 7), "and his own hallowed things, and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of the Lord and in the king's house" (2 Kings 12:18).
(4) That which specially revealed the hand of God in this disaster was not so much the extent as the incidence of it. The blow descended, indeed, upon the common people, who are chief sufferers in most wars; but in this instance a striking fitness was visible in the cutting off of the princes who had instigated the sovereign and his subjects to idolatry, and in the despoliation of the temple, which they had desecrated by their idolatries.
3. The weapon it employed. A small army, which had routed Judah's large host. This was reversing the experience of Judah, as, e.g., when Asa with five hundred and eighty thousand soldiers defeated Zerah with a million of infantry and three hundred charioteers (2 Chronicles 14:10). As Asa's victory was due to Jehovah's help, so Joash's surrender was explicable only on the supposition that Jehovah had forsaken him and Hazael been commissioned to execute wrath upon him.
II. JOASH SLAIN BY CONSPIRATORS. (Ver. 25.)
1. When? "After the Syrians had departed from him." Though he had escaped the doom which sought him on the battlefield, it seemed as if justice would not suffer him to live (cf. Acts 28:4). Scarcely had the Syrians departed than the sleuth-hound of retribution was again upon his trail. Only wounded by soldiers' spears, he was slaughtered by assassins' swords.
2. Where? In his castle-palace at Mille (2 Kings 12:20), and on his bed, i.e. while invalided by his wounds. Death found him in a fortress, behind which he doubtless expected to be secure, and at a moment when, perhaps, that expectation was high through the healing of his wounds.
3. By whom? His own servants, whose names are given: "Zabad [or Jozakat, Kings] the son of Shimeath an Ammonitess, and Jehozabad the son of Shimrith a Moabitess." Led astray by those who should have been his servants, the princes, he was put to death by his actual servants. He had betrayed his country to foreign gods, by men of foreign extraction he was destroyed. Divine retributions frequently correspond to the character of the offence they punish.
4. Why? Because of the "blood of the son of Jehoiada the priest." They meant to reward him for his truculent deed against Zechariah. How they came to champion the cause of Jehoiada's murdered son is not said. Perhaps they shared the popular feeling, which trod never wholly approved of the murder; and when they witnessed the disaster which had come upon their arms, with the judgment that had fallen on the princes, they concluded that Zechariah's blood must be avenged if prosperity was again to return to Judah; and believing they would find, in the public mind, approval for their action, they despatched the wounded man upon his bed at Mille. Their calculations concerning the verdict of the people were not astray. Nobody regretted Joash's untimely end. His subjects "buried him in the city of David," where his fathers lay entombed, but they suffered not his carcase to desecrate the mausoleum of the kings. Learn:
1. The overruling providence of God. Things come to pass at his ordering.
2. The certainty that sin will be punished. Though judgment be delayed, it is not averted. - W.