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Politics and religion;-- Athaliah the ruthless

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posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 05:01 PM
Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab, and we can probably assume that Jezebel was her mother.
Her marriage to the son of Jehoshaphat was part of the deal, when Ahab and Jehoshaphat agreed better relations between their two kingdoms.
As a result, her impact on the religious life of Judah was similar to Jezebel’s impact on the religious life of Israel.
They were each responsible for promoting the worship of Baal, the god of Jezebel’s homeland.
It’s a little surprising, to be sure, that Kings and Chronicles don’t highlight the obvious parallel between mother and daughter. Athaliah could have been the daughter of a secondary wife, but in that case she would have less reason to follow Jezebel’s example.

When Jehoshaphat died, Athaliah’s husband Jehoram succeeded to the throne of Judah.
Her brother Jehoram was already king of Israel (the coincidence of names may be connected with the practice of adopting a “throne-name”).
Once her husband found himself firmly in power, “he slew all his brothers with the sword, and also some of the princes of Israel”.
This was the same fate which Bathsheba had feared when Adonijah looked like becoming the successor to David (1 Kings ch1).
There was a period in Ottoman history when this was almost a normal event at the accession of a new Sultan, until they adopted the more humane practice of keeping all their brothers in prison.
It’s one of the side-effects of polygamy, which produces too many candidates for the succession with different kinds of claim.
However, this is the only occasion when it’s recorded in the history of Judah. This king may have been prompted by his wife, brought up in a kingdom with a very brutal political history.
The killing of kings in kingdom Israel
Apart from that, he “walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done; for the daughter of Ahab was his wife”. That is, she encouraged him to imitate their worship of other gods, including Baal.
“And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles ch21 vv1-6).

When Jehoram died, he was followed by their son Ahaziah.
Ahaziah himself had married into the house of Ahab, so he was under the double influence of wife and mother.
So in the one year that he reigned, he too “walked in the way of the house of Ahab and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings ch8 25-27).
Chronicles, incidentally, gets Ahaziah’s age wrong, and makes him two years older than his own father (2 Chronicles ch21 v20–ch22 v2).

Ahaziah went north to join his uncle in war with the Syrians. When Jehoram retired to Jezreel, to nurse the wounds he had received in battle, Ahaziah joined him and kept him company.
The prophet Elisha chose this moment to launch a coup, sending someone to anoint the army commander Jehu as king over Israel.
The dramatic events of Jehu’s revolt led to the death of Jehoram, the death of Jezebel, and the death of Ahaziah.
The overthrow of the party of Baal was complete in the northern kingdom.
But this left Athaliah in Jerusalem.
When she knew about these events, “she arose and destroyed all the royal family”, including her own grandchildren, the sons of Ahaziah. The only exception was the baby Joash, who was hidden in the Temple by one of his aunts.

So it looks as though Athaliah was aiming at personal power, rather than power for her dynasty.
She also wanted to promote the worship of Baal.
At the time of her death, six years later, there was a house of Baal in Jerusalem, with altars and images and an appointed priest.
I’m rather puzzled to know what Athaliah was expecting to happen in the long term.
Her policy would come to an end at her death, unless she arranged for a successor.
If she tried to bring in a prince from outside the kingdom, she would meet with resistance from the people.
As it was, her tenure of authority probably depended on the absence of any visible alternatives.

Athaliah’s nemesis was the priest of the Temple, Jehoiada.
Obviously he knew about the secret of the hidden child.
2 Chronicles adds the detail that his own wife was the aunt who rescued Joash, which helps to explain the choice of hiding-place.
The priest made his plans with careful forethought.
He intended to reveal Joash to the people on the Sabbath, when they would be gathered in the Temple already.
Before the event, he called a meeting with the captains of the guard, swore them to secrecy, and showed them Joash in person.
They agreed to arrange a double detachment of guards to protect him on the day of the general disclosure. The guards who were supposed to come on duty on the Sabbath would be joined by those who were supposed to go off duty at the same time.

There was a problem about weapons. There were only enough, perhaps, for one detachment at a time. The new detachment could not bring in fresh weapons, even if they had them, because that would give away the fact that something was happening.
Fortunately the Temple was storing spears and shields from the time of King David.
Jehoiada distributed these relics to the captains, and the incoming guards were able to receive them behind the scenes.
When Joash was brought out and shown to the people, the guard marched out at the same time and formed a protective shield round him, ready to kill anyone who approached their ranks.
The coronation could then be carried through without interference.
The elements were;
They placed the crown on his head.
They gave him the “testimony”; perhaps an early version of the Pentateuch, combining the laws with an account of Israel’s history.
They proclaimed him as king.
They anointed him, and the loud rejoicing of the people followed.
The noise brought Athaliah blundering onto the scene (probably through the direct access from the palace), so that she could be captured easily and did not have time to rally her supporters.
Once Athaliah had been dealt with, Jehoiada “made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord’s people” (2 Kings ch11).

On the face of it, then, the history of Athaliah is the story of a political intervention in the religious life of the nation, hostile to the Lord but ultimately unsuccessful.
The danger that the line of David might be broken had been averted.

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 05:02 PM
The consequences of Athaliah

Athaliah had not succeeded in imposing the worship of Baal in the kingdom, but this does not mean that the episode was without consequence in the history of Judah.
Perhaps the most important effect of her usurpation was that the new king did not, like his predecessors, receive his education in a royal court.
He learned the national religion, and the duties of kingship, from the priests who brought him up.
Is it not likely that they would have emphasised the role and importance of the priesthood in Jerusalem?
Surely it is not a coincidence that the term “high priest” first appears at this time, indicating an elevation of their status.
Tradition carries the “high priesthood” back to Aaron, but nobody is given that title in the histories until the reign of Joash (2 Kings ch12 v10).

I think we can see the effects of this development in later history.

Firstly, if the role of the priesthood is enhanced, the role of the king is reduced.
It was not uncommon in the ancient world for kings to sacrifice in their own temples.
David and Solomon offered sacrifice, as did Jeroboam and presumably his successors.
We don’t know when the practice stopped in Judah.
I have a suspicion that the sequence was first interrupted by Athaliah, who would never have been permitted to sacrifice in the Temple even if her own religious preferences had not kept her away.
Jehoiada and the other priests could then have seized the opportunity to establish the principle “kings cannot offer sacrifice”, by including it in the teaching they gave to Joash.
We know that in the following period the kings were excluded from taking an active part, because Uzziah got himself into trouble when he tried to re-claim the old rights.
This prepared the way for the autonomous priesthood of the Second Temple, a model which inspired the “priesthood” of the later Christian church.

Secondly, if the role of the Jerusalem priesthood is enhanced, the role of priests in other locations is reduced.
A few generations later, the sanctuaries of the Lord outside Jerusalem were dissolved, and his worship was centralised there.
I suggest that this was another long-term fruit of the indoctrination which Joash had received from the priests who surrounded him, and which his family inherited from him.
The dogma that there could only be one place where the Lord could be truly worshipped, now carefully incorporated into the laws, was the ultimate cause of the estrangement between the later Jews and the Samaritans.

To the extent that Athaliah was responsible for diverting Judah (and later Christianity) into these two features, a dominant priestly caste and a drive towards excessive centralisation, she has had a truly baleful effect on the history of Biblical religion.

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 05:04 PM
The Chronicler has a different version of the disclosure scene, because he balks at the idea that a secular guard might be allowed to operate in the Temple.
In his account, the captains are first sent out around Judah to gather in the Levites.
The secret revelation of Joash is then made to the gathered Levites, who also provide the double detachment of guards (those coming on duty and those coming off).
Instead of merely surrounding the child, they surround the entire house of the Lord, ready to kill anyone who tries to enter, and keeping the ordinary people outside in the courts.
However, the revision of the story has not been carried out thoroughly.
A few verses later, the original statement that Jehoiada delivered the weapons to the captains is allowed to remain, and he sets “all the people” as a guard for the king (2 Chronicles ch23).

One other detail is revealing; where the account in Kings says that Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, the Chronicler turns this into “Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king” (v16). He takes God’s place in the relationship, acting as the sole intermediary.

I think we see in these late revisions one of the side-effects of the development of a priestly sense of caste. In their understanding of what should have happened, they expose their interest in monopolising access to God and excluding the laity.

posted on Sep, 9 2016 @ 06:17 PM
Damn, Israel had some evil ars Kings. They just can't resist the Baal. Solomon honored many Gods it's said, to please his many women. He is honored as pretty much the greatest King in Israel's history and most powerful among the spirits, as legend has Solomon could talk to animals and order around powerful spirits. According to Jewish legend 72 demons such as Asmodeus were instructed by God to obey Solomon as long as he had the ring with the seal of the hexagram on it. He wound up being a laughingstock as he went insane and began babbling, but the Arabs have a more glamorous version of the story (for Solomon).

With clout like that I don't wonder why most of Israel and Judah's Kings seem to have emulated him worshipping false gods, very few Israelite Kings worshipped Yahweh at all until late after Babylon, it took centuries to stamp out idol worship in the Israelites religion and even today it takes place in secret, in the Vatican too.

posted on Sep, 10 2016 @ 02:59 PM
This thread may be seen as one of a trilogy dealing with a brief period when the histories of the two kingdoms came into closer contact;
Jehoshaphat the teacher
Jehu and the death of Jezebel

I will be looking at other kings of Judah in later threads (but not next week, because I'll be away).

edit on 10-9-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 13 2016 @ 04:32 AM
Hail Ba'al.

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