On the whole, the leaders of Judah were more faithful than their contemporaries in the north. This disparity surfaced again in the events recorded in 2 Kings 11-13. After King Jehu of Israel killed Athaliah’s son, Ahaziah king of Judah, she annihilated “all the royal heirs” (2 Kgs 11:1) and took control of the nation by force. If Athaliah would have been successful, she would have thwarted God’s promise to maintain an heir on David’s throne. She was not. Jehosheba, Ahaziah’s sister, secretly rescued her nephew, Joash, and his nurse from Athaliah’s wrath. God’s promise to David (2 Sam 7:16; 1 Chron 17:11-12) would not be compromised. After Joash had remained in the Lord’s temple six years, Jehoida the priest arranged for Ahaziah’s remaining heir to be anointed king (2 Kgs 11:4-13) and the boy’s grandmother executed (2 Kgs 11:15-16).
During Joash’s reign in Judah, Jehoida served faithfully as the spiritual leader of the nation. Jehoida “made a covenant between the LORD, the king, and the people that they would be the LORD’s people and another one between the king and the people” (2 Kgs 11:17). Further, Jehoida “appointed guards for the LORD’s temple…and they brought the king from the LORD’S temple. They entered the king’s palace by way of the guard’s gate. They sat Joash on the throne of the kings. All the people of the land rejoiced” (2 Kgs 11:18b, 19-20a). The author of 2 Kings evaluated Jehoida’s ministry by noting that, “Throughout the time of Jehoiada the priest instructed him, Joash did what was right in the LORD’s sight” (2 Kgs 12:2).
King Joash was also concerned for the well-being of the temple. He assigned the priests to use the funds brought to the temple for structural repairs (2 Kgs 12:4-15). Sadly though, when pressed by a threat from Hazael king of Aram, Joash gave him the consecrated items of the temple as tribute so that he would withdraw from Judah (2 Kgs 12:17-18). Though Judah was able to endure as a nation, Joash was defeated from within, assassinated by his servants (2 Kgs 12:20-21). The Chronicler proposed that Aram’s advance as far south as Judah during the days of Joash was a result of idolatry among the people (2 Chron 24:23-25). During the period Joash ruled in Judah, Jehoahaz and Jehoash reigned in Israel (2 Kings 13). Neither Israelite king walked consistently in covenant faithfulness and thus both had to endure the Lord’s punitive discipline through the king of Aram.
In 2 Kings 11-13, the author noted two themes formative for Scripture’s storyline.
(1) The Abrahamic covenant and life in the Promised Land. Despite the escalating paganism and unfaithfulness of His people, God’s mercy preserved His people form Aram. This was in part “because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was not willing to destroy them” (2 Kgs 13:23). In light of the promises the Lord made to the forefathers, He was patient with His wandering people. But His patience would wane with their increasing unfaithfulness. Eventually the Lord allowed Israel’s northern neighbor to overtake them. Israel was defeated because of idolatry (2 Kgs 17:6-23). About 200 years later the Lord would hand Judah over to the Babylonians for the same offense (2 Kings 24).
(2) The significance of the temple. When Jehoida was serving as priest, the temple was in ruins because the children of Athaliah, King Ahaziah and his siblings, had renovated Solomon’s temple to accommodate Baal. The Chronicler wrote, “The sons of that wicked Athaliah broke into the LORD’s temple and even used the sacred things of the LORD’s temple for the Baals” (2 Chron 24:7). After Jehoiada had ordered Athaliah’s execution, “The priest appointed guards for the LORD’s temple” (2 Kgs 11:18b). Jehoiada wanted to be sure that the temple would be preserved. Eventually it was destroyed, burned by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (2 Kgs 25:9). The relative frailty of even Solomon’s temple serves as a foil for the permanent, enduring, fortified temple in John’s vision in Revelation—a temple inhabited by a renewed people who worship Jesus. John wrote, “Nothing profane will even enter it: no one who does what is vile or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev 21:27).