2 Chronicles 24 – The Rise and Fall of Joash
A. Joash repairs the temple.
1. (1-3) Joash’s forty year reign.
Joash was seven years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest. And Jehoiada took two wives for him, and he had sons and daughters.
a. He reigned forty years in Jerusalem: This was a long and mostly blessed reign. Joash (also called Jehoash in 2 Kings 12, simply a variant spelling) fell short of full commitment and complete godliness, but he did advance the cause of God in the kingdom of Judah.
i. “The number of wives and children shows God restoring the years the locusts had eaten.” (Selman)
b. Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest: This implies that when Jehoiada died, Joash no longer did what was right in the sight of the LORD. This chapter will document that Joash turned to idolatry when Jehoiada died, and judgment followed.
2. (4-7) The need and the heart to repair the temple.
Now it happened after this that Joash set his heart on repairing the house of the LORD. Then he gathered the priests and the Levites, and said to them, “Go out to the cities of Judah, and gather from all Israel money to repair the house of your God from year to year, and see that you do it quickly.” However the Levites did not do it quickly. So the king called Jehoiada the chief priest, and said to him, “Why have you not required the Levites to bring in from Judah and from Jerusalem the collection, according to the commandment of Moses the servant of the LORD and of the assembly of Israel, for the tabernacle of witness?” For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken into the house of God, and had also presented all the dedicated things of the house of the LORD to the Baals.
a. Joash set his heart on repairing the house of the LORD: This indicated the godly concern that Joash had regarding the condition of the temple. He knew that a prosperous and secure kingdom mattered little if the things of God were neglected or despised.
i. He also knew that the condition of the temple was a valid measurement of the heart and passion of the people of God for the things of God. The temple was not God, but neglect and despising of the temple reflected neglect and despising of God.
b. Go out to the cities of Judah, and gather from all Israel money to repair the house of your God: There was not enough money in the royal treasury to underwrite this project. Therefore the king commanded the Levites in Judah’s outer cities to collect money and bring it back for the project in Jerusalem.
c. However the Levites did not do it quickly: For some reason the Levites did not share the same passion as King Joash did for the condition of the temple. Perhaps they felt that the townspeople of the outer towns would not embrace and support this work. Nevertheless, Joash held them to account and got the work moving.
i. “‘But the Levites did not act at once,’ both because of natural inertia (still true even of Christian workers), and because of the priestly demands that seem to have exhausted the normal revenues on current operations and their own support.” (Payne)
d. For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken into the house of God: This explains why the temple was in such disrepair. It wasn’t just normal wear and tear usage; it was a deliberate campaign against the temple and the worship of the true God prompted by Athaliah and her sons.
3. (8-14) The temple is repaired and worship is resumed.
Then at the king’s command they made a chest, and set it outside at the gate of the house of the LORD. And they made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to bring to the LORD the collection that Moses the servant of God had imposed on Israel in the wilderness. Then all the leaders and all the people rejoiced, brought their contributions, and put them into the chest until all had given. So it was, at that time, when the chest was brought to the king’s official by the hand of the Levites, and when they saw that there was much money, that the king’s scribe and the high priest’s officer came and emptied the chest, and took it and returned it to its place. Thus they did day by day, and gathered money in abundance. The king and Jehoiada gave it to those who did the work of the service of the house of the LORD; and they hired masons and carpenters to repair the house of the LORD, and also those who worked in iron and bronze to restore the house of the LORD. So the workmen labored, and the work was completed by them; they restored the house of God to its original condition and reinforced it. When they had finished, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada; they made from it articles for the house of the LORD, articles for serving and offering, spoons and vessels of gold and silver. And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD continually all the days of Jehoiada.
a. They made a chest, and set it outside at the gate of the house of the LORD: Under the direction of King Joash, the priests gave the people the opportunity to give. Even willing givers should be given an opportunity.
i. “Then he placed a collection chest in a strategic location on the right side of the altar, giving the repair project a high priority and a corresponding high visibility.” (Dilday, 2 Kings 12)
ii. 2 Kings 12:6-13 indicates that part of the problem was poor and wasteful administration. Therefore King Joash got to the heart of the problem and through Jehoiada the priest, he implemented a system where the money would be set aside, saved, and then wisely spent for the repair and refurbishing of the temple.
b. To bring to the LORD the collection that Moses the servant of God had imposed on Israel in the wilderness: This brings to mind the offering that Moses received to build the tabernacle in Exodus 35. That was a divinely inspired plan to receive freely made offerings from the people of Israel.
i. “The tax itself was based on the half-shekel tax for the Tent, though it was also renewed by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:32).” (Selman)
ii. It is possible for God to cause the money and materials to just appear by a miracle. Yet He chooses to almost always fund His work through the willing gifts of His people. He works this way because we need to be a giving people.
iii. This idea is echoed in 2 Corinthians 9:7: So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.
c. Thus they did day by day, and gathered money in abundance: Through the careful and diligent administration of these freely given gifts, an abundance of money was gathered for the work. God cares not only that His people give generously, but also that their gifts be diligently and carefully administered.
d. So the workmen labored, and the work was completed by them: God’s blessing was clearly on the work, but He would not do the work for them. So the king and the priest wisely hired the right kind of workers and paid them directly, so that money would not be lost or wasted on administration.
i. “When the people were assured that the money would really be used for the purpose for which it was given, they responded generously and so similar arrangements were continued by Josiah (2 Kings 22:3-7).” (Wiseman)
e. They brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada: The people were so generous, and the administration was so wise and honest, that there was an excess of money for the restoration project, money which was given to supply new articles for the house of the LORD. This was wonderful evidence of both God’s blessing and man’s generosity and wise stewardship.
i. These replaced “what had been taken away, partly by the Arabian plunderers, and partly by Athaliah’s sacrilegious sons.” (Trapp)
ii. In all likelihood, this generous giving was somewhat of a surprise. “Which he thought would not be any great sum, because of the great iniquity and impiety which yet had reigned for many years, and yet continued in the generality of the people of the land, the Levites not excepted, as the last clause of this verse shows.” (Poole)
4. (15-16) The death of Jehoiada.
But Jehoiada grew old and was full of days, and he died; he was one hundred and thirty years old when he died. And they buried him in the City of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward God and His house.
a. He was one hundred and thirty years old when he died: This unusually long life for this influential priest was evidence of both God’s blessing upon his godly life, and God’s mercy towards King Joash and Judah. When Joash was no longer under the influence of Jehoiada, he took a definite turn for the worse, and in His mercy God delayed this as long as possible.
b. They buried him in the City of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel: The measure of his influence is indicated by the honored burial place they gave Jehoiada. The good he did in Israel was especially toward God and His house.
i. “See the influence of one man. One man can sway a state. One man can check sin. One man can be the head of a host who shall serve God, and honor his name.” (Spurgeon)
B. The apostasy of Joash.
1. (17-19) Joash is influenced to do evil.
Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. Therefore they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen.
a. The leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them: Joash seems to have been a fundamentally weak man; he did good when he was under the influence of the godly Jehoiada, but he did evil when he was under the influence of these leaders of Judah, who led them into idolatry.
i. “In most fawning and flattering manner did these court parasites present themselves before him…persuading him that during the days of Jehoiada he had been a king without a kingdom, a lord without a dominion, a subject to his subjects.” (Trapp)
ii. “Do you not see those gentlemen coming, bowing and scraping a hundred times before they get up to him? They ‘made obeisance to the king.’ Jehoiada had not often made much obeisance to him; he had treated him with due respect as his king, but he had also spoken to him honestly and faithfully.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “That they might not be confined to unnecessary and troublesome journeys in coming to Jerusalem to worship, but might have the liberty which their forefathers enjoyed of worshipping God in the high places; which liberty, when once they had obtained, they knew they could then worship idols without observation or disturbance, which was the thing at which they aimed.” (Poole)
iv. “All that Joash had done was to give his heart to Jehoiada, not to Jehovah. It is very easy to be outwardly religious by giving your heart to your mother, or your father, or your aunt, or your uncle, or some good person who helps you to do what is right. You are doing all this out of love to them, which is at best but a very secondary motive. God says, ‘My son, give me thine heart.’” (Spurgeon)
b. Therefore they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers: They only felt free to worship idols after they had forsaken the house of God. It showed both the shallowness of their commitment to God and the preservative effect of their prior attendance.
i. “Let our church-forsakers chew on this: let them see what good patriots they are.” (Trapp)
c. Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen: This second sin was greater than the initial sins of weakness and idolatry. Joash would not listen to God’s prophets or the correction they brought to him.
2. (20-22) Zechariah’s message to Joash and his death.
Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you.’“ So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, “The LORD look on it, and repay!”
a. The Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people: This prophet, the son of the influential priest, had a position of leadership as a priest. The phrase stood above the people probably indicates that he was a leading priest, one who pronounced the priestly benediction over the assembly of Israel.
i. The description of the Spirit of God coming upon Zechariah is significant. “Therefore God pronounced judgment through a prophesying priest, Jehoiada’s son Zechariah, whom the Spirit of God ‘clothed’…. Two of the three Old Testament examples of this distinctive expression occur in Chronicles (cf. Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18).” (Selman)
ii. “As we put on a cloak or dress, so does the Spirit of God, as it were, hide Himself in those who surrender themselves to Him, so that it is not they who speak and act, but He within them…. Remember the cloth or leather must yield itself easily to the movements of its wearer, and not less pliable and supple must we be to the Spirit of God.” (Meyer)
b. Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you: The Chronicler includes this aspect of the account – not included in the 2 Kings record – especially because this principle was relevant to the returned exiles in the days Chronicles was written. They needed to remember the principle draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8), and the inverse of that principle.
c. So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him: Both the leaders and the common people conspired to murder Zechariah. They not only rejected his message; they also silenced the prophet who spoke with the words of conviction.
i. “What a most wretched and contemptible man was this, who could imbrue his hands in the blood of a prophet of God, and the son of the man who had saved him from being murdered, and raised him to the throne! Alas, alas!” (Clarke)
d. The LORD look on it, and repay! Zechariah’s dying words were a plea to God, asking Him to repay according to His justice. It is the perfect prayer of the persecuted, leaving all vengeance in the hand and wisdom of God.
i. “Zechariah is not looking for personal revenge but asking God to act in keeping with his declared principles of justice.” (Selman)
ii. “And so he did; for, at the end of that year, the Syrians came against Judah, destroyed all the princes of the people, sent their spoils to Damascus; and Joash, the murderer of the prophet, the son of his benefactor, was himself murdered by his own servants. Here was a most signal display of the divine retribution.” (Clarke)
iii. This whole evil tragedy is filled with ironies.
· The people did not listen to the command of the LORD, but they did listen to the evil command of King Joash.
· Joash answered the kindness of Jehoiada to him with cruelty to the son of Jehoiada.
· Zechariah was murdered in the same place where his father Jehoiada had anointed Joash king (2 Chronicles 23:10-11).
3. (23-24) God brings judgment on Judah and Joash through the Syrians
So it happened in the spring of the year that the army of Syria came up against him; and they came to Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the leaders of the people from among the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. For the army of the Syrians came with a small company of men; but the LORD delivered a very great army into their hand, because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers. So they executed judgment against Joash.
a. The army of Syria came up…and destroyed all the leaders of the people: The leaders who were an unwise and ungodly influence upon Joash were the same leaders who were destroyed and had their spoil plundered.
b. The army of the Syrians came with a small company of men; but the LORD delivered a very great army into their hand: Under the judgment of God, the small army of the Syrians overcame the very great army of Judah.
i. God promised that His obedient people would be blessed with success far beyond their numbers (Leviticus 26:8), and that when disobedient, they would suffer disproportionate defeat (Leviticus 26:17, 26:37).
4. (25-27) A wounded Joash is assassinated by his servants.
And when they had withdrawn from him (for they left him severely wounded), his own servants conspired against him because of the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and killed him on his bed. So he died. And they buried him in the City of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings. These are the ones who conspired against him: Zabad the son of Shimeath the Ammonitess, and Jehozabad the son of Shimrith the Moabitess. Now concerning his sons, and the many oracles about him, and the repairing of the house of God, indeed they are written in the annals of the book of the kings. Then Amaziah his son reigned in his place.
a. His own servants conspired against him: This is startling, and shows that the blessing of God had long before vanished from the compromised king, who began so well but failed to finish well.
i. They were prompted to assassinate Joash because of the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest. Yet there may also have been the fact of the recent defeat by Syria. “The murder of Joash by his officials or servants implies that it may have been the result of disaffection following the defeat by Hazael.” (Wiseman)
ii. “So disobedience brings its own bitter reward, and what God’s people sow they always, in some way or another, reap. Joash abundantly deserved his inglorious and terrible end.” (Knapp)
iii. “Thus ended a reign full of promise and hope in the beginning, but profligate, cruel, and ruinous in the end. Never was the hand of God’s justice more signally stretched out against an apostate king and faithless people, than at this time.” (Clarke)
iv. “The ‘many prophecies’ about Joash probably refer to such prophetic threatenings as are noted in 2 Chronicles 24:19-20.” (Payne)
b. They are written in the annals of the book of the kings: There is no record of repentance on Joash’s part. He never came back to, or fulfilled, his bright early promise.
i. “The fact that he was not honoured by a place in the royal cemetery (in contrast to Jehoiada) is important in Chronicles.” (Selman)
ii. “Yes, and there are some whose hearts are not right towards God, who nevertheless are very zealous about the externals of divine worship. It is a much easier thing to build a temple for God than it is to be a temple for God; and it is a much more common thing for persons to show zeal in repairing temples than in reforming their own manners.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “There was a want of principle in Joash, and it is of that I want to warn all our friends. Do not, I pray you, be satisfied with the practice of piety without the principles of piety. It is not enough to have a correct creed; you must have a renewed heart. It is not sufficient to have an ornate ritual; you must have a holy life, and to be holy you must be renewed by the Holy Spirit. If this change is not wrought in you by the Holy Ghost, you who yield so readily to good will yield just as quickly to evil.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “The study of the story of Joash offers a striking illustration of how a weak man is easily influenced. It emphasises the need of strong individual character, which can only be created by direct dealing with God.” (Morgan)
v. “However valuable the influence of a good man may be, it remains true that if a man has nothing more to lean on than that, if it should fail, collapse is almost inevitable. All foundations fail, save one.” (Morgan)