2 Kings 11:1-20 – “King” Athaliah


2 Kings 11:1-20


Athaliah, the only female to sit on the throne of either Israel or Judah, attempts to bring the Davidic line to an end.


When Jehu also killed Ahaziah of Judah in his purge of the north, Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother and the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, seized power and became the only female to sit upon the throne of either Israel or Judah. Like Jehu in the north she ruthlessly had all the members of the royal family executed. She is frequently accused of Baal worship, even attempting to introduce the worship of Baal into the Jerusalem cult, though there is no basis for this judgment in Kings (but see 2 Chronicles 22:3-4, which intimates that Ahaziah’s “evil” [Baal worship] came from his mother). The editors do not recognize her “kingship” and omit her from the structural matrix resulting from the synchronized regnal formulas of the kings of Judah and Israel. Her “reign” was considered illegitimate because she was not of Davidic descent, not because she was female.

Her actions would have eliminated the line of David, had Joash, a very young son of Ahaziah, not been secreted away by Jehosheba, his aunt. When the child was seven, Jehoiada the priest enlisted the temple guard to overthrow Athaliah and preserve Davidic rule. His dramatic coup begins by informing the captains of the situation and whereabouts of Joash (v. 4). Next he lays out a complicated, if not confusing, plan to protect the boy (vv. 5-9). Finally, Jehoiada himself officially carries out the coronation of the new king, complete with a “covenant” (evidently a royal symbol emblematic of kingship) and the acclamation, “Long live the king!” (vv.10-12). The chapter ends with Athaliah’s execution outside the temple and an agreement between the “people of the land” (influential landowners), the young king, and God, stating “that they should be the LORD’s people” (v. 17). This is unusual and not found in other descriptions of royal accession.