2 Chronicles 24
1. Joash ( 2 Kings 12:1) was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother"s name also was Zibiah of Beersheba.
2. And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest [Jehoiada lived after the accession of Joash23years ( 2 Kings 12:6), probably25 or30. Thus the idolatries of Joash (infra, 2 Chronicles 24:18) were confined to the last10 or15 years.]
15. But Jehoiada waxed old, and was full of days when he died; an hundred and thirty years old was he when he died. [Most critics agree that these numbers are corrupt, and suggest instead103, or83.]
16. And they buried him in the city of David among the kings [an unparalleled honour: partly on account of his religious character, and partly on account of his connection with the royal family, through his wife (ch. 2 Chronicles 22:11)], because he had done good in Israel, both toward God and toward his [God"s] house.
17. Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance [seeking by unusual humility to dispose the king favourably toward their request. It would seem that their petition was for a toleration of idolatry, not for a return to the condition of things which prevailed under Athaliah (see next verse)] to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them.
18. And they [i.e. the princes] left the house of the Lord God of their fathers [deserted the temple-worship], and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass [for this trespass of the prince"s, wrath came upon the whole nation (see 2 Chronicles 24:23-24)].
19. Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them [solemnly besought them, exhorted them in the name of God ( 2 Kings 17:13)]: but they would not give ear.
20. And the Spirit of God came upon [lit. clothed, invested] Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people [an elevated place, probably the steps of the inner court, the better to gain attention], and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye [Wherefore are ye transgressing?] the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper [lit. and will not prosper. Prosperity was attached to obedience by the law ( Deuteronomy 28:1-14)]? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you [comp. chap. 2 Chronicles 15:2].
21. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king [the weak king, though not an idolater himself, yielded to the persuasions of the idolatrous party, and allowed himself to be a mere tool in their hands] in the court of the house of the Lord.
22. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The Lord look upon it, and require it [comp. Genesis 9:5, Genesis 43:22; and contrast the words of St. Stephen ( Acts 7:60). Zechariah"s prayer was prophetic. Within little more than a year he was avenged by the violent death of his chief oppressors (see 2 Chronicles 24:23, 2 Chronicles 24:25), while the Jewish people which had participated in the crime continued to expiate their offence by suffering till the close of their existence as a nation (see Luke 11:51).]
23. And it came to pass at the end of the year, that the host of Syria came up against him: and they came to Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people, and sent all the spoil of them unto the king of Damascus.
24. For the army of the Syrians came [rather, had come] with a small company of men, and the Lord [had] delivered a very great host into their hand, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. So they executed judgment against Joash [by defeating his army and slaying all the nobles].
25. And when they were departed from him (for they left him in great diseases [rather, in a sore disease]), his own servants conspired against him for the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and slew him on his bed [in the castle of Milo ( 2 Kings 12:20), whither he had retired for some unknown reason], and he died: and they buried him in the city of David, but they buried him not in the sepulchres of the kings.
Lessons From Joash
SEVEN or eight persons of the name of Joash are mentioned in the Old Testament. This particular man had a tragical history. When the wicked woman Athaliah murdered his father"s family and usurped the throne, the infant Joash was secretly saved by his aunt Jehoshebah, who was married to the high priest Jehoiada. The child was brought up secretly in chambers connected with the temple, and in his eighth year he became the eighth king of Judah, and as such he reigned forty years. The life of Joash, though lived nearly three thousand years ago, is as fresh in its applications to human nature as if it had ended but yesterday. For example, Joash was everything that could be desired so long as he was under age and obedient to the counsel and discipline of Jehoiada the high priest So long indeed as the high priest lived Joash was a type of filial excellence. Are there not amongst ourselves leaders who keep us right, Jehoiadas but for whom our religious life would expire? Our regularity at church may be due to them. Our abstinence from certain pernicious customs may be due to their influence. They are the stay of the house and the tenderest comfort of life. We do not know how much we owe to them. If their policy was one of driving instead of leading, we should know more about it; but because it is quiet, subtle, persuasive, and encouraging, it goes for less than it really is. Is it not the woman who keeps the house together? We are not vividly conscious of this fact during her lifetime, but after she is gone we observe a difference in the whole household economy: we cannot explain it; things are not as they used to be; there is more grating of the machinery; little things are felt to be absent; the fluency of the whole life is lost, so that now it goes in rushes and tumults, and is marked by irregularity and uncertainty. We begin to ask how this is; and in the putting of the question we are conducted to the answer, for we remember that the woman, the wife, the mother, is dead, and her hand being withdrawn from the whole economy, the result is painfully manifest. We do not notice events that pass regularly, nor are we careful to ascertain their motive and duly appraise it: we soon fall into a state of acquiescence with everything that is comfortable; it is when the comfort ceases that we begin to put questions, and it is at that time that we begin to do justice to many whose influence we had ignored or under-estimated during the time of its activity. It would seem to be about the last thing men do, to estimate properly the value of subtle and silent influences, the magic and wizardry of noble character. We may even be ashamed to do certain things in the presence of the Jehoiadas of society. We are not ashamed of the things themselves, nor are we unprepared to make experiments in regard to them; but whenever we would put forth our hand to begin the experiments we see the observing Jehoiada, and withdraw from the pernicious attempt So it is that there are trustees of commercial and social honour, men who would never do the dishonourable deed, speak the calumnious word, or mislead the sentiment of the marketplace in times of strong temptation and peril. We rely upon them as disinfectants, keeping the commercial atmosphere pure, and discouraging in the most positive and decisive manner the spirit and action of men who are low-minded and selfish. These Jehoiadas deliver no lectures upon commercial morality, nor do they in any manner that can be charged with conceit display their own virtues; they simply go on their straightforward course, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God, and the result of their presence and character is that even the worst men are restrained, weak men are confirmed in good resolutions, and men whose character needs inspiration receive it from their example. Are we to be told that such men are doing nothing in the world because they are not publishing books, delivering lectures, or taking some active part in public life? Such men are doing the real work of the world. Talk is nothing except as it leads to practice,—a lecture is but wasted breath unless it culminates in noble conduct: in the case of the Jehoiadas of society we have men who have left the elementary school, and are now themselves daily teachers of the highest truths, and continual examples of their possible application to the real necessities of life.
In the next place, however, Joash represents those who develop unexpected corruption of character. As soon as the high priest died the princes of Judah came and made obeisance to Joash ( 2 Chronicles 24:17). They were idolaters, they served groves and idols, and they succeeded in corrupting the king"s mind and in leading him away from the true worship. This is the deadliest attack that can be made upon human character and influence; for once loosen the bonds of deeply religious faith, and all the rest is easy work. A man may overget some attack that is made upon a political custom or a social usage, and he may even recover himself from the effect of straying into the enemy"s camp for the purpose of momentary consultation; but when his religious faith is undermined his whole character goes down. The attack which was made upon the religious position of Joash was of the kind which is known as flattery. The princes of Judah said to him, in effect: You have been under the domination of Jehoiada, you have been merely a nominal king, you have been called a lord but have had no dominion: now the time has come when you should avow your great power, and grant to every man what is called religious liberty. Joash "hearkened unto them," and the result is given in verse eighteen—
"And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass." ( 2 Chronicles 24:18)
Once lose reverence for the Bible, regard it as merely the first of literary compositions, or one of the oldest and noblest of poems; lose faith in the supernatural element which pervades it, let go some measure of the authority which it has exercised over thought and morals, and the victory of the enemy will be easy and complete. The same line of reasoning holds good with regard to the sanctuary. Surely it cannot be a fatal offence to neglect the assembling of ourselves together at least occasionally; surely it may be permitted to a man to regard other occasions of corning together as of at least equal importance with all gatherings in the church; it cannot surely be wrong to elevate certain kinds of intellectual inquiry into a species of worship on the Lord"s day;—all these thoughts are of the most insidious kind, full of temptation, and when they are perverted, it is in innumerable cases not the lower that is lifted up, but the higher that is degraded or impoverished. There is a sense, of course, in which too much religious liberty cannot be given, for it is the inalienable birthright of every man. Every Prayer of Manasseh, however, should be careful how much religious liberty he allows himself to enjoy. That is the crucial point. Whilst we are talking about religious liberty in the abstract, there may be nothing of a disciplinary kind in our declamation; but when we come to say to ourselves what liberty we shall allow our own conscience, judgment, or imagination; we should be inexorable disciplinarians. Liberty lies so near to licence that unless the spiritual faculties be trained to all but supernatural discernment a fatal mistake may easily be made. A man"s conception of worship really reaches his life. Let him lose his reverence for God, and his reverence for Prayer of Manasseh, however much he may boast of it, will in that measure go down: the two commandments belong to one another, and are absolutely inseparable. Increase of true reverence towards God always means increase of real beneficence towards Prayer of Manasseh, for there is a deep and mysterious sense, as well as a sense limited by the creation, that man is made in the image and likeness of God, so that when God is most feared, loved, and honoured, man is blessed by the increase of religious conviction and emotion.
Notwithstanding the defection of Joash, God sent prophets to the people, to bring them again to the Lord; and although the prophets testified against the people they would not give ear.
"The Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you" ( 2 Chronicles 24:20).
What became of Zechariah the son of Jehoiada? What becomes of every true patriot? What is the fate of every man who stands up in the face of a corrupt age and inveighs against its evil thought and practice? We are not now coming upon a momentary accident, we are coming upon a vital principle, when we read, "And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord" ( 2 Chronicles 24:21). Thus, though Joash owed so much to Jehoiada, he actually commanded that the son of Jehoiada should be stoned with stones. Then we read of him these bitter words—"Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son" ( 2 Chronicles 24:22). This is comfirmation of what has already been said, that when religious faith goes down all sense of personal and social obligation goes down along with it. The man who could forget God could easily forget Jehoiada. See how irrational was the conduct of the king! He killed the prophet, as if he had actually originated the very evil which he denounced. But what does the killing of a prophet mean? Let us seek out the great and true meanings of actions, and not be content with superficial definitions. To kill a prophet means in reality to kill God, so far as that is possible. We know well that the prophet is only a representative; he is nothing of himself, but owes his whole power to his inspiration; it is therefore not against the inspired man that we rebel, but against the inspiring Spirit. We may try to elude this application of the truth, but when we hush ourselves into the most silent thoughtfulness, and betake ourselves to religious solitude, we know well in our conscience that our whole trouble is that God is looking, God is judging, God is appealing; and we seek to mitigate the pain of that fact by taking vengeance upon the preacher, the prophet, the man who reasons of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.
Does Joash escape? Has he satisfied his vengeance and retired to peace, contentment, and security?
"And it came to pass at the end of the year, that the host of Syria came up against him: and they came to Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people, and sent all the spoil of them unto the king of Damascus" ( 2 Chronicles 24:23).
There was an element of contempt in this invasion and conquest—"For the armies of the Syrians came with a small company of men, and the Lord delivered a very great host into their hand." A visitation of that kind would have great effect upon the minds of the men who were the subjects of it, for they estimated everything by great numbers and dazzling pomp: the fact that an innumerable host could be taken by a very small band of men would be not the least punishment that could be inflicted upon Joash and his people. Joash was left in great diseases. His own servants conspired against him for the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and slew him on his bed. The young man who began so well was buried in the city of David, but "not in the sepulchres of the kings." In one sense the punishment was imperial, for it was inflicted by the Syrians; but the final punishment was degrading, for the man was slain by his own servants, so that his death was deprived of all heroic accessories; and in the last sense it was an official punishment, for Joash was excluded from the sepulchres of the kings. Every kind of punishment befools the bad man: the empire is against him, or, in other words, constituted society, as expressed in law, order, and adequate penalty; his own servants are against him, for they see that he has been living a hypocritical and worthless life, and that all his pretensions have but added to his iniquities; and all the honours of social ceremony are either denied to him or are bestowed with grudging and reproach. The wicked man is as a candle blown out. The memory of the wicked is doomed to rottenness. He boasts much; he pleases himself with the chink of his boundless wealth; he dazzles himself with all the pomp and circumstance of his residence and appointments: but all the while he is engaged in a fool"s gallop towards a fool"s fate. There are men who have their reward in this world, and even in this world it is difficult in many cases to regard their end as a reward. In many cases there is a suppressed judgment of condemnation in regard to bad men: nothing public is said, nothing audible indeed may be uttered, but there is a general consent amongst honest and worthy men that such persons are neither to be trusted nor to be had in grateful remembrance. They are dead whilst they live; their houses are but ornamented tombs, and all their boasting is but a swollen lie. God smites the bad man at every point. The wind of God"s judgment comes from every quarter, and there is no escape from the fury of his tempest. The field and the barn, the herd and the stall, the tree and the wheat, health and reason, home and peace, all go down in the infinite shock of the divine fury. The successes of the wicked man are but so many failures. His very glory becomes his shame. The high tower which he has built becomes the gallows on which he is hanged as a traitor against the heavens. Let no man think he can rob God, indulge vain thoughts, take vengeance into his own hands, live a selfish life, and then enter into honour, and pass upward into heaven. Let us be truthful to ourselves, and remember that God is not mocked, and that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap, and that this is a law of manifest justice, and that any other law would throw creation into contradiction and utter confusion. Let those who begin life well take a lesson from the history of Joash. He began well. He "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest"; and yet at the last, like many other kings, he turned out to be ungrateful, cruel, impious, and he died an ignominious death. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." The very advantages with which we begin life may add to the ignominy and humiliation of its close, if we live unworthily of the privileges with which we were originally endowed. Thus let the old histories become to us as modern instances; for in this way only can we turn the word of God to the highest advantage, and show that we have perused its narratives, not as if they were measurable by the letter alone, but as if they were full of spirit and meaning intended to apply to all the ages of time.
Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, and when thou hearest, Lord, forgive. Continue this miracle of forgiveness until the end of time, for there is no soul that sinneth not. Thou wilt not remove the cross until all its work is accomplished, and the soul of the sufferer is satisfied. We bless thee for that living cross; no more a symbol of degradation, but an altar, a way to heaven; yea, the one and only way, broad as human necessity, and welcome as the love of God. Thou wilt pardon us night by night: may we not therefore continue to sin that grace may abound, but because of the fulness of thy pardoning mercy may we be the more sensitive as to the dignity and holiness of thy law. How easily is thy law broken! We bless thee for this, because herein thou dost recognise the greatness of Prayer of Manasseh, the solemnity of character, the gravity of every human action. To live is to be in danger. In what danger can the dead be? But to live to breathe, to hear and see: are not these narrow separations from loss and sorrow, and pain? Yet do we choose to live, if thou dost put the question to us. We would not die, but live: yea, though we be much afflicted, and know the necessity of hunger, and the burning of thirst, and the sadness of solitude, yet still we cling to life, because life has in it the spirit of hope, and tomorrow may be brighter than to-day, and the summer, like the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, may come at such an hour as we think not of. For that summer we, wait, for that warmth of heaven we pine; we are sure that it will come, and that even the sterility of our hearts shall be broken in upon, and the barren ground of our life shall bear flowers and fruits to God"s approval. Teach us that this mystery of life has in it a deeper mystery still, that all this longing for life is but our poor way of longing for immortality. We cannot tell all the meaning of our longing; we know not to what issues our hope sends out its ray of light: but this we know, that there is more in life than we have yet dreamed, there is a mystery of joy which has not yet given up its secret: there is heaven coming to us day by day, always coming nearer, now and then flashing out some dazzling beam, now and again whispering to us as if a breath might blow the intervening veil away. Thus life has its gladness as well as its sorrow; thus walking with Christ our hearts are lifted up in gladness, as certainly as they are bowed down in woe; and if we see the cross we see beyond it the joy that is set before those who being crucified with Christ rise again with him in the triumph of his resurrection. We have been blind, else what we might have seen! We have let whole troops of angels go by without vision; yea, all thy heavens may have moved before us, but we have been so busy in the dust under our feet that we have not seen the true glory; we have gazed at mimic royalties, we have looked out for passing pageants, we have been thrilled in the poverty of our feeling by sights that come and go like chased shadows; but the God, the angel, the spirit, the heaven, the eternal we have not seen, so our souls have been disquieted, and in our hearts there has been no sabbath. But we bless thee for the sense of loss; we might have endured loss and not have known it: by so much as thou dost make us conscious of loss thou art still working in us, thou hast not given us up, thou art still hoping that even we may be saved. Thou hast sent thy Book to come and speak to us night and day, in all changes of scene and clime and circumstance. Wondrous book! in it we hear in our own tongue in which we were born the wonderful works of God; and as we muse the fire burns, and our hearts are conscious of increase of vitality; when we look abroad we see the whole horizon white with radiant angels, and every cloud but conceals a door that opens into the eternal paradise. For all love, care, tenderness, what can we say? We are nursed in the arms of God, we are rested in the heart of Jesus; we are inspired by God the Holy Ghost, so that we know no more the emptiness of earth and the poverty of time, for our citizenship is in heaven, already do we walk the streets of gold. Out of the highest rapture may we come to do earth"s plainest work, earth"s hardest toil, with patient hearts and willing hands, knowing that death can be but for a moment, that all things are meant, in the sovereignty of God, to give themselves up to the rule of life. Thus may thy children be loyal citizens, patient workers, honest merchantmen, wise parents; going about all the business and solicitude of life with religious cheerfulness, with solemn joy. We pray for those who are in great distress; for those in peril on the sea; for those shut up in the prison of the pit, dark and helpless, and whose hearts are giving way with mortal fear; we pray for those who are in great alarm, who feel much, and cry poignantly, but can do nothing, men and women who are given to feel how small their strength, how brief the limit of their service. O thou who dost watch all worlds, and dost watch the least with tenderest care, look down upon all who are too sad to pray, too despairing to believe. Be with all men who trust thee; melt the mountains before their coming, and open the gates of difficulty ere they reach them, and give them to feel that the greatness of thy mercy is the proof of its divinity. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 24". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://pro.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34