2 Chronicles 22 – The Evil Reigns of Ahaziah and Athaliah
A. Ahaziah’s rise and fall.
1. (1-4) The brief and wicked reign of Ahaziah.
Then the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his place, for the raiders who came with the Arabians into the camp had killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, reigned. Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah the granddaughter of Omri. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother advised him to do wickedly. Therefore he did evil in the sight of the LORD, like the house of Ahab; for they were his counselors after the death of his father, to his destruction.
a. The inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his place: As will be demonstrated, the son of Jehoram named Ahaziah was an unworthy man. Yet the Chronicler explains why the inhabitants of Jerusalem made him king – because raiding Arabians had killed all the older sons.
i. “Men that came with the Arabians; either, 1. A cruel sort of men who came along with the Arabians, and therefore slew those whom the Arabians had spared, and only carried into captivity. Or, 2. The Philistines, who did accompany the Arabians in this expedition, 2 Chronicles 21:16, who lived near the kingdom of Judah, and therefore thought to make as sure work as they could in destroying all the branches of the royal family.” (Poole)
b. He reigned one year in Jerusalem: The short life and reign of Jehoram (he reigned only eight years and died at 40 years of age) should have warned Ahaziah. His brief reign (one year) shows he was even less blessed than his father Jehoram.
i. “Ahaziah succeeded his father, Jehoram, in the critical year 841 B.C. He was not to survive the momentous waves of the political events that were to inundate the ancient Near East in that year. Indeed, in 841 B.C. Shalmaneser III of Assyria (859-824 B.C.) at last was able to break the coalition of western allies with whom he had previously fought a long series of battles (853, 848, 845).” (Patterson and Austel)
ii. Forty-two years old: This is at odds with 2 Kings 8:26 which says that Ahaziah took the throne when 22 years old. “I am satisfied the reading in 2 Chronicles 22:2, is a mistake; and that we should read…twenty-two instead of forty-two years…. Is there a single ancient author of any kind, but particularly those who have written on matters of history and chronology, whose works have been transmitted to us free of similar errors, owing to the negligence of transcribers?” (Clarke on 2 Kings 8:26)
iii. “The reading found in the LXX and 2 Kings 8:26 for Ahaziah’s age of ‘twenty-two years’ is to be adopted, rather than the MT’s ‘forty-two,’ which would make him older than his father (cf. 2 Chronicles 21:20).” (Payne)
c. He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother advised him to do wickedly: Ahaziah’s mother was the wicked Athaliah, who was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel of the northern kingdom of Israel and she was given in marriage to Jehoram, the king of Judah. She brought her influence to bear upon her son and made him more of a son of Ahab and Jezebel than a son of David and his godly descendants.
i. Through her control of her son and her subsequent reign as queen (2 Chronicles 22:10-12), Athaliah exercised great power in Judah.
ii. “During both reigns, therefore, Ahab’s dynasty was in effective control of Judah. The unity of Judah and Israel is eloquently symbolized by the names of their kings. No other Israelite king was called Jehoram or Ahaziah, yet both names are used of successive contemporary rulers in Judah and Israel.” (Selman)
2. (5-9) Ahaziah falls in judgment along with Ahab’s house by Jehu in Israel.
He also followed their advice, and went with Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel to war against Hazael king of Syria at Ramoth Gilead; and the Syrians wounded Joram. Then he returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds which he had received at Ramah, when he fought against Hazael king of Syria. And Azariah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, went down to see Jehoram the son of Ahab in Jezreel, because he was sick. His going to Joram was God’s occasion for Ahaziah’s downfall; for when he arrived, he went out with Jehoram against Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to cut off the house of Ahab. And it happened, when Jehu was executing judgment on the house of Ahab, and found the princes of Judah and the sons of Ahaziah’s brothers who served Ahaziah, that he killed them. Then he searched for Ahaziah; and they caught him (he was hiding in Samaria), and brought him to Jehu. When they had killed him, they buried him, “because,” they said, “he is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart.” So the house of Ahaziah had no one to assume power over the kingdom.
a. Went with Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel to war against Hazael king of Syria: Ahaziah’s close association with the wicked house of Ahab developed into a war alliance with Israel against Syria. His connection with his mother’s family (she was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, 2 Kings 8:18) was so strong and sympathetic that he paid a visit to the injured and sick King of Israel (Jehoram).
b. Then he searched for Ahaziah; and they caught him: Jehu is one of the more interesting men of the Old Testament. God raised him up to bring judgment against the dynasty of Omri that ruled the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 9:1-26). In the course of fulfilling that divine commission, he also came against Ahaziah, king of Judah.
i. Jehu had no direct command or commission from God to bring judgment upon the king of Judah, but he did anyway. Consciously or unconsciously, he was guided by God and he killed Ahaziah.
ii. And the sons of Ahaziah’s brothers: “The Hebrew calls them ‘sons of the brothers of Ahaziah’, but, since his actual brothers were dead (2 Chronicles 21:17; 22:1) and their sons were probably no more than children, they are best regarded as ‘kinsmen.’” (Selman)
c. When they had killed him: Ahaziah was happy to associate himself with the northern kingdom of Israel and their wicked kings. Therefore he died in the same judgment that came upon the king of Israel through Jehu.
i. Ahaziah was also a blood relative of Ahab (Ahab was his grandfather), therefore making him liable under the judgment that came upon Ahab and his descendants. “By failing to separate himself from Jehoram, he made himself liable to suffer the same punishment that God had previously announced against Ahab’s house which he had chosen Hazael and Jehu to carry out.” (Selman)
ii. 2 Kings 9:1-26 also records the reign of Ahaziah and his inglorious end at the hands of Jehu. The reconciliation of the details of the death of Ahaziah between 2 Chronicles 22 and 2 Kings 9 is complicated, but definitely possible. Adam Clarke – among other commentators – carefully works out the details.
iii. “The final movements of Ahaziah are difficult to trace but may perhaps be reconstructed as follows: he fled south from Jezreel so as to hide in Samaria. He was brought to Jehu, who fatally wounded him near Ibleam (between Jezreel and Samaria); he fled by chariot northwest to Megiddo, where he died (2 Kings 9:27); and his body was carried by Ahaziah’s servants to Jerusalem (2 Kings 9:28), where they buried him.” (Payne)
d. They buried him: When Ahaziah was killed in battle, they gave him a dignified burial – not for his own sake, but only because his ancestor Jehoshaphat was a godly man.
B. The reign of Queen Athaliah.
1. (10) The evil Queen Athaliah reigns over Judah.
Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal heirs of the house of Judah.
a. When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead: She used the occasion of her son’s death to take power for herself, and she reigned over the land for six years (2 Kings 11:1-3).
i. We remember that Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and was given to Jehoram, king of Judah as a bride. She was a bad influence on both her husband (King Jehoram of Judah) and her son (King Ahaziah of Judah).
b. And destroyed all the royal heirs: Athaliah was from the family of Ahab, and Jehu had completely destroyed all of Ahab’s descendants in Israel. Now, after Jehu’s coup, Athaliah tried to save something for Ahab’s family by trying to eliminate the house of David in Judah.
i. “However, no evil anger is sufficient to frustrate divine purpose, and against the wickedness of one woman God set the compassion of another.” (Morgan)
ii. Years before, the king of Judah – Jehoshaphat – married his son to this daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, hoping to make an alliance with those wicked and apostate leaders. “And this was the fruit of Jehoshaphat’s marrying his son to a daughter of that idolatrous and wicked house of Ahab, even the extirpation of all his posterity but one.” (Poole)
iii. “No character in history, sacred or secular, stands out blacker or more hideous than this daughter-in-law of the godly Jehoshaphat.” (Knapp)
2. (11-12) God uses Jehoshabeath to preserve the royal line of David.
But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being murdered, and put him and his nurse in a bedroom. So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram, the wife of Jehoiada the priest (for she was the sister of Ahaziah), hid him from Athaliah so that she did not kill him. And he was hidden with them in the house of God for six years, while Athaliah reigned over the land.
a. But Jehoshabeath: This little-known woman (known as Jehosheba in 2 Kings 11:2) had an important place in God’s plan of the ages. Through her courage and ingenuity, she preserved the royal line of David through which the Messiah would come. Evil people like Athaliah will begin their work, but God can always raise up a Jehoshabeath.
i. “This incident is really a tale of two women.” (Selman)
ii. “Thus evil always breaks down. It is extremely clever, it calculates on all the changes, and seems to leave no unguarded place; but with unvarying regularity it fails somewhere to cover up its tracks, or to insure its victory.” (Morgan)
iii. She was the sister of Ahaziah: “It is not likely that Jehosheba was the daughter of Athaliah; she was a sister, we find, to Ahaziah the son of Athaliah, but probably by a different mother.” (Clarke)
b. He was hidden with them in the house of God for six years: Though Ahaziah was a bad king who made evil alliances, he was still a descendant of David and the successor of his royal line. For the sake of David, God remembered His promise and spared this one young survivor to the massacre of Athaliah. The line of David was almost extinguished and continued only in the presence of a small boy named Joash, but God preserved that flickering flame.
i. “Josephus (Antiquities 9.7.1) says that the bedroom where the child and his nurse hid was a room where spare furniture and mattresses were stored.” (Wiseman)
ii. Like the boy Samuel, Joash grew up in the temple. Like Samuel, he probably found little ways to help the priests, whatever could be done without attracting too much attention.
iii. “Nothing but the miraculous intervention of the divine providence could have saved the line of David at this time, and preserved the prophecy relative to the Messiah. The whole truth of that prophecy, and the salvation of the world, appeared to be now suspended on the brittle thread of the life of an infant of a year old, (see 2 Chronicles 24:1,) to destroy whom was the interest of the reigning power! But God can save by few as well as by many. He had purposed, and vain were the counter-exertions of earth and hell.” (Clarke)
iv. “There are hours in human history when it seems as though evil were almost all powerful. It entrenches itself in great strength; it builds up great ramparts; it inaugurates policies of the utmost craft and cleverness. It seems to be able to bind together a kingdom which is invincible. All this is false seeming. There is no finality, no security, in the apparent might of iniquity.” (Morgan)