And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.
Verse 1. - And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead. (On Athaliah, see the comment upon 2 Kings 8:18.) She was married to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, probably in the lifetime of his father, to cement the alliance concluded between Ahab and Jehoshaphat against the Syrians (1 Kings 22:2-4). She inherited much of her mother Jezebel's character, obtained an unlimited ascendancy over her husband, Jehoram, and kept her son Ahaziah in leading-strings. It was unquestionably through her influence that Jehoram was prevailed upon to introduce the Baal-worship into Judah (2 Kings 8:18; 2 Chronicles 2:5, 11), and Ahaziah prevailed upon to maintain it (2 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 22:3, "He also Talked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly"). On the death of Ahaziah, she found her position seriously imperiled. The crown would have passed naturally to one of her grandchildren, the eldest of the sons of Ahaziah. She would have lost her position of gebirah, or queen mother, which would have passed to the widow of Ahaziah, the mother of the new sovereign. If she did not at once lose all influence, at any rate a counter-influence to hers would have been established; and this might well have been that of the high priest, who was closely connected by marriage with the royal family. Under these circumstances, she took the bold resolution described in the next clause. She arose and destroyed the seed royal. She issued her orders, and had all the members of the house of David on whom she could lay her hands put to death. The royal house had already been greatly depleted by Jehoram's murder of his brothers (2 Chronicles 21:4), by Arab marauders (2 Chronicles 21:17), and by Jehu's murder of the "brethren of Ahaziah" (2 Kings 10:14); but it is clear that Ahaziah had left several sons behind him, and some of his "brethren" had also, in all probability, left issue. There may also have been many other descendants of David in Judah, belonging to other branches of the house than that of Rehoboam. Athaliah, no doubt, endeavored to make a clean sweep, and get rid of them all.
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 bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain.
Verse 2. - But Jehosheba ("Jehoshabeath," Chronicles; "Josabethe," Josephus). The daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah - half-sister, according to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 9:7. § 1), the daughter of Joram by a secondary wife, not by Athaliah - took Jonah the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons which were slain. As aunt of the royal children, Jehosheba would have free entrance into the palace, and liberty to visit all the apartments. She did not dare openly to oppose Athallah's will, but contrived secretly to save one of the intended victims, the smallest of them, an infant of a year old (παμδίον ἐνιαύσιον, Josephus). His tender age, probably, moved her compassion, and induced her to select him from the rest. And they hid him: even him and his nurse. The order in the Hebrew is, "even him and his nurse, and they hid him," which clears the sense. Jehosheba stole away Joash and his nurse, and they, i.e. Jehosheba and the nurse together, hid him between them. In the bedchamber; rather, in the chamber of mattresses - a room in the palace where mattresses, and perhaps coverlets, were stored. Chardin notes ('Works,' vol. 3. p: 357) that there is usually retch a room m an Oriental palace, which is only used as a store-chamber, and not as a dwelling-room. From Athaliah, so that he was not slain. Athaliah's servants may not have been very anxious to carry out her cruel orders to the uttermost, and may have made no very careful search.
And he was with her hid in the house of the LORD six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land.
Verse 3. - And he was with her - he, i.e. Joash, was with her, i.e. Jehosheba, his aunt - hid in the house of the Lord; i.e. the temple. We learn from Chronicles (2 Chronicles 22:11) that Jehosheba was married to Jehoiada, the high priest, and would thus have ready access to the temple. We must suppose that, after a few days' concealment in the "chamber of mattresses," Jehosheba found an opportunity of transferring him, with his nurse, to a chamber in the temple, where he was thenceforward nourished and brought up. There were various chambers in the temple used for secular purposes, as we learn from 1 Kings 6:5-8 and Nehemiah 13:5-9. Six years (comp. ver. 21 and 2 Chronicles 24:1). And Athaliah did reign over the land. It is difficult to realize all that this implies. It cannot mean less than that for six years Baalism was triumphant in Judah - the temple was allowed to fall into decay (2 Kings 12:5) - a temple to Baal was erected in Jerusalem itself, to supersede the temple of Jehovah (2 Kings 11:18), and a high priest appointed to be a rival to the successor of Aaron. Whether persecution was indulged in, as under Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:11), is uncertain; but the servants of Jehovah were at any rate under a cloud, slighted, contemned, held as of small account. Perhaps we may conclude, from the position occupied by Jehoiada, and from the powers which he was able to exercise when he determined on revolt (ver. 4; 2 Chronicles 23:1, 2), that Athaliah, during her six years' reign, was to some extent held in check by a Jehovistic party, which she knew to exist, and which she did not dare openly to defy. Thus she left Jehoiada (apparently) in possession of the temple, of its treasures and its armory (ver. 10); she allowed the temple service to continue (2 Chronicles 23:4-7); she permitted the priests and the Levites to serve in their regular "courses" (2 Chronicles 23:8); she let the fortress of the eastern city - for the temple was always a fortress - remain in her enemies' hands. Still, the time was evidently one "of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy" the oppressed worshippers of Jehovah were greatly discontented; and the nation generally was ripe for a counter-revolution, so soon as the signal was given by an authority whom they could trust.
And the seventh year Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard, and brought them to him into the house of the LORD, and made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of the LORD, and shewed them the king's son.
Verses 4-16. - Conspiracy of Jehoiada. After waiting, impatiently we may be sure, for six long years, and seeing the young prince grow from an infant to a boy of seven years of age, Jehoiada deemed that the time was come to venture on an effort. It was necessary for him to make his arrangements beforehand with great care. His first step was to sound the captains of the royal guard. To these men, five in number (2 Chronicles 23:1), he sent secretly, and in-wired them to confer with him in the temple on important business. Finding them well disposed to adopt his views, he revealed to them the fact that Joash had escaped the massacre of Ahaziah's sons, and was still living, even allowing them to see him. The result of the interview was that they put themselves at Jehoiada's disposal, and agreed to take their orders from him (ver. 4). Jehoiada then proceeded to his second step. Either distrusting the body-guard which the captains commanded, or regarding it as insufficient in numbers, he gave them orders to visit the various cities of Judea, and collect from them a strong force of Levites and other trusty persons, and bring them to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 23:2), where he would give them their orders. This was done successfully, and, as it would seem, without in any way rousing the suspicions of Athaliah. A day was fixed for proclaiming Joash king; the guard and the Levites were skillfully disposed about the temple and the palace; the king was brought up, crowned, anointed, and saluted as monarch, with noisy acclamations (ver. 12). The noise was heard in the palace, and Athaliah went forth, with a few attendants, to inquire the reason of it. Following the sound, she came to the temple, and entered it, when she saw what was going on, and cried out, "Treason! Treason!" By Jehoiada's order the guards seized her, conducted her out of the temple, and slew her (vers. 13-16). Verse 4. - And the seventh year - literally, and in the seventh year; i.e. in the course of it - Jehoiada sent and fetched the rulers over hundreds, with the captains and the guard; rather, the captains over hundreds (or, centurions) of the Carites and the guard (see the Revised Version). The "Carites," here first named, are generally regarded as identical with the Cherethites of earlier times (2 Samuel 8:18; 1 Kings 1:38; 1 Chronicles 18:17). They were undoubtedly a particular portion of the royal guard, and may, perhaps, as many suppose, have been "Caftan" mercenaries, though we have no other evidence that the Carians had adopted the mercenary life so early as the time of Athaliah. Still, as their devotion to it had passed into a proverb when Archilochus wrote (B.C. 700-660), it is quite possible that they had begun the practice a century or two earlier. When Jehoiada is said to have "sent and fetched" the centurions, we must understand that he secretly invited them, and that they consented to come. He could not possibly have any authority over them, so as to require their attendance. The names of the five centurions, together with their fathers' names, were put on record by the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:1), whose account of the revolution is in many respects fuller than that in Kings. And brought them to him into the house of the Lord - as the safest place for an interview which had to be kept secret from the queen - and made a covenant with them, and took an oath of them in the house of the Lord. We can easily understand that the soldiers, who had been willing to serve Athaliah under the notion that the house of David was extinct, might waver in their allegiance so soon as they heard that a scion of the old royal stock survived, and could be produced at a moment's notice. Their traditions would attach them to David and his seed, not to the house of Ahab. And showed them the king's son. Having bound the centurions by a solemn covenant to the cause of the young king, Jehoiada introduced them into his presence. He had, no doubt, previously sworn them to secrecy.
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;
Verse 5. - And he commanded them, saying, This is the thing that ye shall do. It is evident, from 2 Chronicles and from Josephus, that a considerable interval of time separates the events of ver. 5 from those of ver. 4. The immediate arrangement made between Jehoiada and the centurions was that they should "go throughout the whole land" (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 9:7. § 2), visit "all the cities of Judah" (2 Chronicles 23:2), and gather out of them a strong force of Levites and priests (Josephus), together with a certain number of other representative Israelites, which force they should bring with them to Jerusalem, and place at his disposal. To accomplish this must have taken some weeks. When the force had arrived, Jehoiada summoned it to meet him in the courts of the temple, and swore it to a similar covenant to that which he had made with the centurions. He then bided his time, completed his arrangements, utilized the store of arms laid up in the temple armory (ver. 10), and finally gave two charges - one to the centurions, which is given here (vers. 5-8), and the other to the force collected from the cities of Judah, which is given in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:4-7). The orders given to the two forces were very similar, but not identical. A third part of you that enter in on the sabbath. The royal body-guard consisted of five divisions, each probably of a hundred men, and each commanded by its own captain (2 Chronicles 23:1). It was usual on the sabbath for three divisions out of the five to mount guard at the royal palace, while two were engaged outside, keeping order in the city, and especially at the temple. We do not know the ordinary disposition of the guard, either inside or outside the palace. On this occasion Jehoiada commanded that the palace-guard should be disposed as follows: one division at the palace proper, in the courts and halls and antechambers; a second at one of the issues from the palace, known as "the gate of Sur;" and a third at an issue called "the gate of the guard," which was certainly towards the east, where the palace fronted the temple. The object was to secure the palace, but not to prevent the queen from leaving it. Shall even be keepers of the watch of the king's house; i.e. of the royal palace.
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.
Verse 6. - And a third part shall be at the gate of Sur. The "gate of Sur" is not elsewhere mentioned. It seems to be called in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:5) "the gate of the foundation" (שַׂעַר יְסוד) instead of "the gate of Sur" (שַׁעַר סוּר), as here - the one reading having evidently arisen out of the other by a corruption. We must understand one of the palace gates, but which of them is uncertain. And a third part at the gate behind the guard; called in ver. 19 "the gate of the guard," and shown there to have been on the cast side of the palace, where it faced the temple, and abutted on the Tyropoeon. So shall ye keep the watch of the house - i.e., of the "king's house," or palace, which is contrasted with the "house of the Lord" of the next verse - that it be not broken down. This rendering is scarcely accepted at the present time by any writers. Ewald renders, "according to custom;" Keil, "for defense;" Furst, "alternately;" our Revisers, "and be a barrier." The Hebrew word used occurs nowhere else, and it seems impossible to determine its sense. The LXX. simply omit it.
And two parts of all you that go forth on the sabbath, even they shall keep the watch of the house of the LORD about the king.
Verse 7. - And two parts of all you that go forth on the sabbath. Three-fifths of the guard having been disposed of about the palace, there remained only two-fifths, or two "companies" (margin of Authorized Version). These Jehoiada commanded to enter the temple and protect the young king. Even they shall keep the watch of the house of the Lord about the king. According to Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:7), the great body of the Levites gathered from the cities of Judah was also to be in the temple, and to assist in the protection of the monarch.
And ye shall compass the king round about, every man with his weapons in his hand: and he that cometh within the ranges, let him be slain: and be ye with the king as he goeth out and as he cometh in.
Verse 8. - And ye shall compass the king round about; every man with his weapons in his hand. The guard was to take up a position, partly in front of the king, and partly behind him; interposing themselves between his person and any danger, and at the same time extending themselves across the entire court of the temple (ver. 11) from one wall to the other. They were, of course, to have their weapons in their hands, ready for use. And he that cometh within the ranges, let him be slain; rather, within the ranks. The order was that if any one entered the temple, and attempted to break through the ranks of the guard, either in front of the king or behind him, he should instantly be put to death. No attempt of the kind was made; and so the order re-rosined a dead letter. And be ye with the king as he goeth out and as he cometh in; accompany him, i.e. in all his movements - let him never for a moment stray outside your ranks - continue to surround him whithersoever he goes. Boys are restless, and curiosity would lead the young prince to move from place to place in order to see what was going on.
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.
Verse 9. - And the captains over the hundreds - i.e., the five centurions of the guard, Azariah the son of Jeroham, Azariah the son of Obed, Ishmael, Maaseiah, and Eli-shaphat - did according to all things that Jehoiada the priest commanded. The secular arm placed itself entirely at the disposal of the spirituality, and was content for once to be subordinate. 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. The position of Jehoiada as high priest ("the priest" always means "high priest") had not been previously mentioned, probably because it was presumed to be known. The Chronicler, writing much later, gives Jehoiada the title on the first occasion that he mentions him (2 Chronicles 22:11). When it is said that "all the captains took their men and came to Jehoiada," the intention is to mark their exact obedience to the orders given them. Strictly speaking, only two out of the five actually appeared before Jehoiada on the day of the execution of his project, two divisions only having been summoned to come to the temple (ver. 7). The other three took up the positions assigned them in and about the royal palace.
And to the captains over hundreds did the priest give king David's spears and shields, that were in the temple of the LORD.
Verse 10. - And to the captains over hundreds did the priest give King David's spears and shields, that were in the temple of the Lord. We hear of David carrying with him to Jerusalem the "shields of gold," i.e. shields ornamented with gold, which he took from the servants of Hadadezer (2 Samuel 8:7); but otherwise we are not told of his establishing an armory. Solomon made six hundred shields of solid gold, and laid them up in the house of the forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 10:17); but these were carried off by Sheshonk, when he invaded Judaea in the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:26). Rehoboam, in their place, made three hundred brazen shields (1 Kings 14:27), which, however, were deposited in the guard-chamber of the royal palace. Of spears collected by David, and laid up in the temple, we know nothing beyond the present passage. There can be little doubt that the weapons were brought forth from their receptacle with the view (as Ewald says) of "consecrating the work of the restoration of the Davidic house with the sacred arms of the great founder himself" (see 'History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 136) - not, however, with arms that he had worn, but with some which he had collected and laid up.
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.
Verse 11. - 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. "Corner" is a wrong word used in this connection. The Hebrew כָתֶף is literally, "shoulder," and must mean here, not "corner," but "side" (so our Revisers). The guard was drawn up right across the temple court from wall to wall, probably in several ranks, both before and behind the king (see ver. 8). Along by the altar. The "altar" intended is, of course, the altar of burnt offering, which stood in the great court, a little way from the porch, right in front of it; not the altar of incense, which was inside the sanctuary. No one, it must be remembered, was ever allowed to enter inside the sanctuary but the priests and officiating Levites (see 2 Chronicles 23:6). And the temple. "The temple" is here the sanctuary, as in the passage of Chronicles just quoted. The guard occupied a position at the upper end of the court, immediately in front of the altar and the temple porch.
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.
Verse 12. - And he - i.e. Jehoiada - brought forth the king's son - produced him, i.e., from the chamber or chambers where he had been concealed hitherto. (On the temple chambers, see Nehemiah 13:4-9.) And put the crown upon him. That the Israelite kings actually wore crowns appears from 2 Samuel 1:10 and 1 Chronicles 20:2. The crown was probably a band of gold, either plain or set with jewels (Zechariah 9:16), fastened behind with a riband. It receives here the same name that is given to the high priest's diadem in Exodus 29:6 and Exodus 39:30. And gave him the testimony. The words "gave him" are not in the original, and are superfluous. What is meant plainly is that the high priest laid on the young king's head a copy of the Law, or of some essential portion of it, perhaps the Decalogue, which is often called "the testimony" (Exodus 16:34; Exodus 25:16, 21, etc.). The object apparently was to show that the king was to rule by law, not arbitrarily - that he was to be, as Dean Stanley says, "not above, but beneath, the law of his country" ('Jewish Church,' vol. 2. p. 397). The ceremony seems to have been a new one, and is indicative of the gradual curtailment of the regal power under the later monarchy. And they made him king, and anointed him. A change is made from the singular to the plural, because, as we learn from 2 Chronicles 23:11, "Jehoiada and his sons anointed him." We have had no mention of the anointing of a new monarch in Judah since the time of Solomon (1 Kings 1:39). It may, however, have been the usual practice. And they - i.e. the people - all who were present - clapped their hands - an ordinary sign of joy (see Psalm 47:1; Psalm 98:8; Isaiah 4:12; Nahum 3:19, etc.) - and said, God save the king! literally, long live the king! (comp. 1 Samuel 10:24; 2 Samuel 16:16; 1 Kings 1:25, 39).
And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came to the people into the temple of the LORD.
Verse 13. - And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard (comp. 1 Kings 1:41-45, where the noise accompanying the coronation of Solomon was heard to an equal distance) and of the people. The "and," which is omitted in the present Hebrew text, may be supplied by a very slight alteration. We have only to read הָרָצִי וְהָעָם for הָרָצין הָעָם - an emendation rendered almost certain by the fact that the plural in אּיּן does not belong to the date of the writer of Kings. She came to the people into the temple of the Lord. It was not her habit to enter the temple on the sabbath, or on any ether day; but, hearing the noise, she hurried across from the palace to learn its cause. It would seem that she was still unsuspicious of danger, and brought no guards with her, nor any large body of attendants.
And when she looked, behold, 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.
Verse 14. - And when she looked, behold, the king stood by a pillar; rather, on the pillar, or on the raised platform. The king's proper place in the temple seems to have been a raised standing-place (הָעַמּוּד, from עָמֹד, to stand) in front of the entrance to the sanctuary, which made him very conspicuous (comp. 2 Kings 23:3; 2 Chronicles 23:13, and 2 Chron 34:31). As the manner was - i.e. as was the usual practice when kings visited the temple - and the princes - i.e. the centurions or captains of the guard - and the trumpeters by the king - the officials whose business it was to blow the trumpet at a coronation (see 2 Samuel 15:10; 1 Kings 1:39; 1 Kings 9:13) - and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets; i.e. the people who had been admitted into the great court to witness the coronation. Some rumor of what was about to occur had got abroad, and many of the people had provided themselves with trumpets. As Dean Stanley puts it, "The temple court was crowded with spectators, and they too took part in the celebration, and themselves prolonged the trumpet-blast, blended with the musical instruments of the temple service." And Athaliah rent her clothes. Athaliah took in all with a single glance. She "saw that the fatal hour was come" (Stanley). With a strong hand she rent her royal robes, partly in horror, partly in despair; for the single glance which she had cast around was sufficient to show her that all was lost. And cried, Treason! Treason! or, conspiracy! conspiracy! The cry was scarcely an appeal for help, as Josephus makes it ('Ant. Jud.,' 9:7. § 3), but rather an instinctive utterance, without distinct aim or object, wrung from her under the circumstances. It fell dead on the assembly.
But Jehoiada the priest 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 the LORD.
Verse 15. - But Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains - literally, princes - of the hundreds, the officers of the host - the commanders, i.e., of the small "army" assembled in the temple court - and said unto them, Have her forth without the ranges; rather, have her forth, or conduct her out between your ranks. The object was probably to preserve her from suffering violence at the hands of any of the people within the temple precincts, which Jehoiada desired to preserve free from pollution. And him that followeth her kill with the sword; i.e. if any come after her out of the temple, to attempt a rescue, slay them with the sword. The order, given aloud, was sufficient to deter persons from making the attempt. For the priest had said, Let her not be slain in the house of the Lord. Jehoiada had previously given an order that her execution should take place outside the temple.
And 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.
Verse 16. - And they laid hands on her. So the LXX. (ἐπέθηκαν αὐτῇ χεῖρας), the Vulgate, Luther, and others; but most moderns understand that they formed in two lines, one on either side of her, and so let her pass out of the temple and proceed towards the palace untouched - the divinity that hedged a queen preventing them from molesting her until the time came for her execution (see the Revised Version). And she went by the way by the which the horses came into the king's house. Josephus makes Athaliah pass out of the temple by the east gate, and descend into the Kedron valley. He says she was put to death "at the gate of the king's mules," but does not mark the locality. The gate intended can scarcely be the "horse gate" of Nehemiah 3:28, which was in the eastern wall, and north of the temple. It was probably a gate on the western side of the Tyropoeon valley, giving entrance to the stables of the palace (comp. 2 Chronicles 23:15, and see below, ver. 20). And there was she slain; "with the sword" (ver. 20). A single blow from one of the guardsmen probably sufficed.
And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they should be the LORD'S people; between the king also and the people.
Verses 17-21. - Further doings of Jehoiada. The king being at present a mere puppet in his hands, Jehoiada had to determine the next steps which were necessary to be taken. These, in his judgment, were three.
1. A solemn covenant must be made between the king and the people; and another between the king, the people, and God - the latter pledging the king and people to maintain the worship of Jehovah, and never again to apostatize; the former pledging the king to govern according to law, and the people to remain faithful to him.
2. The temple of Baal, erected in Jerusalem at the instance of Athaliah, must be destroyed.
3. The king must be removed from the temple and installed in the palace of his ancestors. A brief account of these proceedings concludes the present chapter. Verse 17. - And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people. In the original it is "made the covenant;" and the meaning is that the high priest renewed the old covenant understood to exist between king and people on the one hand and God on the other, that they would be faithful to God and God to them - that they would maintain his worship, and that he would continue his protection (see Exodus 19:5-8; Exodus 24:3-8; Exodus 34:10-28). The apostasy of Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah was regarded as having put an end to the old covenant, and therefore it was solemnly remade or renewed. That they should be the Lord's people (comp. Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 9:29; Deuteronomy 32:9, etc.); between the king also and the people. The terms of this covenant are nowhere distinctly stated, but we can only suppose them to have expressed in words the intention of that novel act, the imposition of "the testimony" upon the head of the king at the time of his coronation (see the comment upon ver. 12).
And all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and brake it down; his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of the LORD.
Verse 18. - And all the people of the land - i.e. all those who had come up to Jerusalem from the various cities of Judah to help Jehoiada (see 2 Chronicles 23:2) - went into the house of Baal. According to Josephus, "the house of Baal" here mentioned was built by Jehoram and Athaliah in the reign of the former ('Ant. Jud.,' 9:7. § 4), But, if this was the case, it is rather strange that the writer of Chronicles, who enumerates so many of the evil acts of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:4, 6, 11), does not mention it. The present narrative shows that the temple was in, or very near, Jerusalem; but there is nothing to fix the site of it. And brake it down - Josephus says they "razed it to the ground" (κατέσκαψαν) - his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly. It was common among the heathen to have several altars in one temple, and not uncommon to have several images even of the same god, especially if he was a god worshipped under different forms, as Baal was (whence the word "Baalim"). The Baalim of this temple are mentioned by the writer of Chronicles (see 2 Chronicles 24:7). And slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. The name "Mattan" recalls that of the last King of Judah, which was originally Mattaniah, equivalent to "gift of Jehovah" (2 Kings 24:17). Mattan would be simply "gift." We may presume that, though only called "priest," he was the high priest. And the priest - i.e. Jehoiada - appointed officers over the house of the Lord. The parallel passage of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 23:18, 19) explains this statement. We are there told that "Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the Lord by the hand of the priests the Levites... to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the Law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was ordained by David. And he set the porters at the gates of the house of the Lord, that none which was unclean in anything should enter in." During Athaliah's reign the temple service had ceased; breaches had been broken in the outer walls; and neither the priests nor the porters had served in their regular order; there had been no morning or evening sacrifice, and no antiphonal psalm-singing. Jehoiada re-established the regular courses and the worship.
And he took the rulers over hundreds, and the captains, and the guard, and all the people of the land; and they brought down the king from the house of the LORD, and came by the way of the gate of the guard to the king's house. And he sat on the throne of the kings.
Verse 19. - And he took the rulers - literally, princes - over hundreds - i.e. the five centurions of 2 Chronicles 23:2 - and the captains - rather, and the Carites (see the comment on ver. 4) - and the guard - i.e. the "runners," the other division of the guard - and all the people of the land - those who had flocked to his standard either originally (2 Chronicles 23:2) or since - and they brought down the king from the house of the Lord. They escorted Joash from the temple to the palace, first bringing him down into the valley of the Tyropoeon, and then conducting him up the opposite, or western hill, on which the palace stood. And came by the way of the gate of the guard to the king's house. The "gate of the guard" is probably that called in ver. 6 "the gate behind the guard." We may presume that it was the main entrance to the palace on the eastern side. And he sat on the throne of the kings. Not till he had placed Joash on the royal throne of his ancestors, in the great throne-room of the palace, was Jehoiada content with the work of the day.
And all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet: and they slew Athaliah with the sword beside the king's house.
Verse 20. - And all the people of the land rejoiced. "All the people of the land" has here, perhaps, a wider signification than in vers. 18 and 19. The whole land was content with the revolution that had taken place. No opposition showed itself. Ewald has no ground for his statement that the heathenizing party was strong in Jerusalem, and that the worshippers of Jehovah "had for a long time to keep watch in the temple, to prevent surprise by the heathenizing party" ('History of Israel,' vol. 4. p. 136, note 3). He has mistaken the intention of the last clause of ver. 18. If anything is clear from the entire narrative of the early reign of Joash (2 Kings 11:3-21; 2 Kings 12:1-16; 2 Chronicles 23:1-21; 2 Chronicles 24:1-14), it is that there was no heathenizing party in Jerusalem, or none that dared to show itself, until after the death of the high priest Jehoiada, which was later than the twenty-third year of Joash. And the city - i.e. Jerusalem - was in quiet: and they slew - it might he translated, when they had slain - Athaliah with the sword beside the king's house. The intention of the writer is to connect the period of tranquility with the removal of Athaliah, and therefore to point her out as the cause of disturbance previously.
Seven years old was Jehoash when he began to reign.
Verse 21. - Seven years old was Jehoash - or, Joash - when he began to reign (comp. vers. 3 and 4 and 2 Chronicles 24:1). The clause would be better placed at the beginning of the next chapter.