Good morning! Today’s passage (2 Kings 11-14) will please Game of Thrones fans and those who fancy royal succession history, but the rest of us might feel lost in a forest of palace intrigue, rivalries and near-identical names. These four chapters track the highs and lows of leaders in both Judah and Israel, as well as describe the passing of Elisha, the prophet who has been so influential in this book. As we read, consider how the southern kings are almost always described as more righteous than the northern kings? I take this as a sign of the writers’ allegiance to David’s lineage, and further vilification of those who sit on the rival throne created by Jeroboam son of Nebat (still blamed for the split with Rehoboam after Solomon’s death).
With chapter 11, we start in southern Judah, where Athaliah tries to destroy all other competitors to the throne after Jehu has killed her son Ahaziah and other successors. She reigns unchallenged for six years, but her killing spree doesn’t reach the infant prince Joash, who remains hidden in the temple. When the boy is seven years old, the priest Jehoiada arranges for soldiers to rally around him as his claim to the throne is announced. Jehoiada (not Joash, the just-announced king) then commands Athaliah’s seizure and execution. The priest also institutes reforms that include a new covenant, destruction of Baal priests/altars, and guards over the temple. Though Joash is set up as the new king, Jehoiada is the priestly power behind the throne.
By the next chapter, Jehoash (apparently another way of spelling Joash) is older and has ruled long enough to make his own decisions regarding the temple. Jehoash commands that offerings and tax revenue be used to repair the temple, but it’s not being done. The king then takes over managing the temple’s financial revenues, as well as the building maintenance. (Think of this as creating the first Trustees Committee!) A system of checks and balances makes sure both royal and priestly overseers witness the counting of revenue, but no accountability is required of the contractors and subcontractors in doing their work—“they dealt honestly.” Despite the resulting repairs to the temple, its treasure was not able to be kept secure. When Hazael the Aramean king threatens to invade Jerusalem, the temple treasury is raided to pay him off. This is both a way of preserving Jerusalem’s population from seige, and paying ransom which thereby creates incentive to threaten Jerusalem again. (Note that this situation has already occurred under Solomon’s son Rehoboam, when Egypt’s King Shishak invaded Jerusalem in 1 Kings 14.) Attention shifts in 2 Kings 13 to the northern kingdom of Israel and the “wicked” acts of Jehoahaz, whose conduct is blamed for repeated Aramean attacks. As if all these names of royalty are not confusing enough, we see the names Joash and Jehoash used interchangeably for kings reigning simultaneously in both Israel (Jehoahaz’ successor) and the aforementioned Judah.
Elisha’s death is another characteristic of chapter 13. Joash says to Elisha what the later prophet said to Elijah at Elijah’s passing: “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” Elisha’s final prophecy in the presence of Joash is a sign-act against powerful Aram, using arrows as symbols for Israel’s future dominance over Aram. Elisha’s burial comes with one other miracle—a dead man comes back to life when he touches Elisha’s bones. I’ve heard of someone who counted the miracles of Elisha (including this one), and came up with twice the number of miracles that Elijah conducted. Hence, one could argue that Elisha’s prayer for “a double portion of [Elijah’s] spirit” did come to pass.
Both Israel and Judah get new kings in 2 Kings 14, but the bad blood remains the same. Amaziah’s reign in Judah, and his resounding victory over Edom leads to an attempted reconciliation with more powerful Israel and its king, Jehoash. The northern king rebuffs this overture by his “puny” southern colleague, and follows up with a punishing attack on Judah. Amaziah is betrayed and killed some years later (this seems to be a special hazard for Judah’s kings in this period). His son Azariah is crowned king in Judah, while Jeroboam (the Second) has become king in Israel. I couldn’t find the diagram I have that shows these succession lines adjacent to each other, but there should be one in most study Bibles. Or just search the web if you’re curious. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Kings 15-17. Thanks for reading!