2 CHRONICLES 22:1 – 24:27 and ACTS 12:1–25
2 Chr 22
Ahaziah, son of Jehoram and Athaliah was next to come to the throne. He was 42 as he began his reign and it lasted for only one year. Notice in verse 2 it mentions his mother’s name of Athaliah. She is cited as being the daughter of Omri but he was actually her grandfather. Ahab was her father and the fact that Omri is mentioned may help clear up confusion as to where she really comes from seeing that she married into the lineage of Judah. Ahaziah from Judah is noted for walking after the kings of Israel and the ways of Ahab due to his mother serving as his counsellor. Athaliah is a diabolical and wicked woman. Ahaziah committed a similar act that his grandfather Jehoshaphat did. He went to war with the King of Israel (Jehoram) against Ramoth-Gilead. Just like at the time of Jehoshaphat and Ahab the King of Israel, Jehoram suffered in the battle while the king of Judah escaped but wounded. Ahaziah later went to see Jehoram and in so doing came against Jehu who was commissioned to execute judgement on the house of Ahab. It was God who allowed for this gathering so that judgement would be done. Jehu was now on his appointed purge of the house of Ahab for their wickedness. Ahaziah, who aligned with Jehoram, was included in this sovereign purge.
Athaliah now has lost her son after losing her husband earlier. She is enraged and now goes about the destruction of the royal seed of Judah. This is a pivotal moment because the promise of the sceptre coming forth out of Judah was now in jeopardy. This event has great consequence and needs to be reflected upon. The following in italics is the commentary that was given in 2 Kings 11. It is worth looking at again.
Whenever God moves in judgement or a stand is taken against wickedness one can be assured of a response from the enemy camp. The enemy’s last stand in the case of the judgement upon the house of Ahab will be through Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. It is a very dangerous scenario. Upon hearing of the death of Ahaziah her son, she goes forth and destroys all of the royal seed. This is the intent and heart of Satan; to destroy anything that can be linked to the future Messiah. Here he has an opportune moment. If the all of the royal seed could be extinguished how then could the sceptre come forth out of Judah? This would be the end of the monarchy. Satan made a similar attempt at the time of Moses birth. He moved upon the heart of Pharaoh to enact a law to destroy the sons of the Hebrew women at birth (Exo 1:16). We can assume that the enemy knew that a future deliverer was about to be brought forth. It was the faith of his mother Jocabhad that preserved Moses. The question that needs to be asked is how did Athaliah ever get into such a positon to be able to destroy all of the royal seed? How did Satan ever get into such a significant platform to be able to do this? Let’s review a brief timeline. We can look at the sin of Balaam back at the time when Joshua was about to lead the children of Israel over the Jordan. His uncircumcised heart led to a link between the men of Israel to the Moabitish women. This mixture helped to form the foundation of Baal worship. We should recall that in the midst of these events there came forth a priest by the name of Phineas who executed God’s judgement upon a couple who blatantly flaunted their sin. This initiative of Phineas pleased God resulting in Phineas being given the promise of an everlasting priesthood. (Num 25:11-13) He was also given a covenant of peace. What Phineas did is what will be required in these last days. The sin of idolatry came alive once again through the latter years of King Solomon. He loved many wives and eventually began worshipping their gods. What do you think happens to the people when such a standard is set? It only accentuated after the kingdom divided under Jeroboam. He established places of worship at Bethel and Dan which heightened heathen practices. The cup of iniquity became ripe under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab married the daughter of a heathen named Ethbaal who was both a king and priest. It was at this time when Ahab sought to make alliances with King Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah. Regrettably, he (Jehoshaphat) made the statement that “I am as thou art” and proceeded to have an arrangement with Ahab. This was not the only time. The alliance and friendship became so strong that an eventual marriage took place between the son of Jehoshaphat and the daughter of Ahab. Her name was Athaliah. When the judgement went forth against the house of Ahab through Jehu, Athaliah took action which is what we are seeing here. She came to this position due to compromise, uncircumcision of heart and alliances. What is the remedy? Who can stand in her way and thwart this deadly assault on God’s eternal plan?
One of the godliest couples you will ever see in scripture is a husband and wife named Jehosheba and Jehoiada. Who are they? Most people probably never heard of them. I can assure you that heaven knows their name. In fact, I have often used this couple as a godly example of an ideal marriage in weddings I have spoken at. Jehosheba took initiative to steal away one of the sons of royal lineage and hid him. His name was Joash. He was hidden for a period of 6 years when Athaliah had rule over the land. Jehoiada was a priest and he taught the child while preserving him during this period. At the appropriate time Jehoiada made arrangements to bring the true and only heir to the throne. The timing and execution had to be right otherwise the son could be lost and with him any trace of Judah royalty. It was the king Jehoiada who presented him in the temple with the armed guards, who placed the crown upon his head and proclaimed him as king (vs 9-12). Athaliah, once she became aware of what has taken place cried treason treason. Jehoiada the priest, like Phineas before him became the instrument that placated the heart of God. He gave instruction to have Athaliah put to death outside of the temple court. What we see in this most instructive chapter is one of the primary functions of a true priesthood. It was the priest that preserved the monarchy and brought an end to the wiles of Athaliah. After her death he gave instruction to destroy every evidence of Baal, including the remaining chief priest Mattan (vs 18). The land rejoiced as a result of Jehoiada’s reforms. Joash, though only 7 to 8 years old came to the throne under the guiding hand of the priest Jehoiada. This couple (Jehosheba and Jehoiada) was responsible for preserving the royal lineage of Judah. Their marriage serves as a powerful reminder as to what can be accomplished when two people gather together under the headship of the Lord. Do we truly appreciate the role of the priesthood?
2 Chr 23
Jehoiada the priest now took charge over the matters of the kingdom while Joash grew into his role as king. He found the fathers, the Levites and priests out of Judah and positioned them to protect the king during this volatile period. He established a covenant with the king in the house of God and made clear that he shall reign one day as king (vs 4). The priests helped to preserve the monarchy by being skilfully placed by Jehoiada while Athaliah still lurked about. There are similarities to when Solomon was being prepared to be king at the time of Adonijah’s revolt (1 Kings 1). Nathan, Bathsheba and David worked behind the scenes until the appropriate time of announcing Solomon as king. This pronouncement took Adonijah and his followers off guard and when it happened they could not withstand against it. The work that Jehoiada did in preparing Joash the king is similar. It had to be done secretly so as to not draw the attention of Athaliah. The timing had to be just right. It seems that God may allow for a stupor upon people like Adonijah and Athaliah during such periods. People like Nathan and Jehoiada must move in wisdom at such times due to the volatility of the situation. At the appointed time they declared Joash as king by anointing him (vs 11). There were the blasting of trumpets, singers and musicians playing upon instruments. Athaliah could not take it as she screamed out Treason, Treason. They slew her immediately afterwards and installed Joash as the newly appointed king. The rising up of Jehu to slay the house of Ahab and those aligned to it for its sin with Baal was now complete with the death of Athaliah. The enemy was very nearly able to destroy the royal seed through the actions of this wicked woman. It all came about as a result of unwise alliances between a wicked king and a godly king. Jehoiada quickly broke down the altars of Baal and slew their priests. He set up people in vital roles of administration. Joash was young at this stage so it was the godly priest who was functioning in the primary leadership role at this time. The land was at rest now that the wicked reign of Athaliah had come to an end.
2 Chr 24
We now turn to the reign of King Joash. He came to the throne at a very early age. He had to rely on the guidance and instruction of Jehoiada the priest. He functioned well as king while under his tutelage (vs 2). Joash, as he developed into his role, made reforms in the house of the Lord. King Joash’s rule is covered in our 2 Kings 12 commentary. I would like to add a few more points here.
The priest Jehoiada lived to the age of 130. He and his wife were instrumental in preserving the godly lineage of Judah. His role helps to being front and center the importance of the priestly role in leadership. He not only preserved Joash and the godly lineage but he helped steer the kingdom effectively when Joash came to the throne. There was peace in the land and Joash did well as king; after Jehoiada passes away it all changes. It was only a matter of time before they went back to idolatry and other heathen practices (vs 18). The Lord faithfully sent prophets to Joash and his counsellors but they would not hearken. The Lord made clear that because they had forsaken the Lord he would forsake them. It gets even worse when Joash slays the son of Jehoiada the priest. He was a prophet named Zechariah; a prophet whom the Lord refers to Math 23:35. The Lord likens the blood of Zacharias to that of Abel in its crying out from the ground. There was a war that God appointed against the Syrians due to Joash’s sin against Zechariah which leaves him sick and diseased. In the end his own servants conspired against him. What a horrible end to his reign. He functioned well under the leadership of Jehoiada the priest but catered to the princes of Judah after his death. He could not handle the correction as spoken by the prophets, especially the rebuke from the son of his mentor who saved and guided him. He killed Zachariah which opened the door for his determined judgment. His son Amaziah is next to come to the throne.
It is Herod Agrippa that is referred to in verse 1. He would have been the grandson of Herod the great. He exercises his influence against the growth of the churches, primarily the ones in Jerusalem. The growth of the church would surely be affecting the authority and rule of these men. In verse 2 we have the first martyr of the apostles who happened to be James the son of Zebedee. We may recall that it was to James where Jesus spoke about being baptized with the baptism He was about to undergo (Math 20:22). The Jews took pleasure in Herod’s reach against the church which only reflects the blood thirsty nature of hatred that existed against the church. Herod saw that this was gaining him favor with the Jews so he went further by trying to lay hold of Peter (vs 3). He was apprehended and put into prison. The people went to prayer on his behalf. Up until this time Peter had been bold and has been used by God in dramatic ways. He had been fearless since Pentecost. It now seems that the upper hand was now coming down upon the leaders of the early church movement to the delight of the opposing Jews. James, one of the original apostles has now been murdered, and Peter, the primary spokesman and leader of the early church movement has been placed into prison. The momentum now seemed to be on the side of those who opposed the gospel, much like it was when they brought the Lord to trial.
Peter has a supernatural visitation of the Lord during the night. He was told to arise up quickly which he did resulting in the chains being broken off of him. Peter thought of it as being a vision as he raced off through the various wards of the prison. The main gate of the prison opened supernaturally and once it did the angel departed from Peter. He realized that it was indeed God that sent the angel to deliver him and keep him from the expectation of the people of the Jews (vs 11). Peter came to the home of Mary, the mother of John where many were praying for his release. No one could believe that it was actually Peter at the door because they had full knowledge of his imprisonment and that he would be the last person they would expect showing up at that time. Naturally, they were all astonished at what they saw. It is clear that Peter’s time was not yet finished, not even by a long shot. He was faithfully doing what the Lord had given him and even though he was in a prison God was able to deliver Him. It was different for James as the Lord allowed him to be martyred at an early stage of the church movement.
The incident at the prison caused quite a stir amongst the soldiers. When this event came to the attention of Herod he commanded that the attending soldiers be put to death. This particular Herod was a wicked man who ruled ruthlessly. He came into a position where he received the accolades of the people of Tyre and Sidon. They made the statement that Herod had the voice of a god and not man. Herod received these overtures and must have got caught up in it. Perhaps this is similar to how Lucifer fell from heaven. He received the praises unto himself as opposed to giving glory to God. The judgement upon Herod was swift and severe. Though there were setbacks with the death of James and the imprisonment of Peter the church continued to multiply. It was at this time where Barnabus and Saul returned from Jerusalem to begin their missionary journey. They would also take along John Mark.