Who is Athaliah in the Bible?

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Athaliah was a wicked queen of Judah that reigned from 841–835 BC (2 Kings 11; 1 Chronicles 22–23). Her name means the “afflicted by God.” Athaliah was the daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, and she married King Jehoram until his death in 841 BC. He was the eldest son of Judah’s King Jehoshophat. But unlike his father, Jehoram was a wicked king. Athaliah did more wickedness in her life than all the kings before and after her.

Athaliah’s son, Ahaziah

He became king at the age of 22 and was as wicked as his father (2 Kings 8:18, 25–27). Athaliah guided her son in path of rebellion against God (2 Chronicles 22:3) because she was a forceful woman like her mother Jezebel. And she did much to introduce the worship of Baal into the southern kingdom (2 Kings 11:18).

Ahaziah served as king of Judah for less than one year, for he was assassinated by Jehu the king’s commander along with Israel’s king Joram (2 Kings 9:5, 25). The prophet Elisha had anointed Jehu as the new king of Israel and set him to carry on God’s judgment on King Ahab, Jezebel and her sons (1 Kings 19:1–17; 2 Kings 9:1–13). Ahaziah was killed by Jehu a short time after the death of King Jehoram in Israel (2 Kings 9:24, 27). However, the reign of Jehu began before the reign of Athaliah by a very short time.

Athaliah seized the throne

When Athaliah heard that Ahaziah was killed, she usurped the throne by murdering Ahaziah’s sons (her grandchildren). She exterminated the whole royal family to ensure that she will sit on the throne. Athaliah seems to have inherited the bloodthirsty spirit of her mother Jezebel.  But one grandchild escaped by the assistance of Jehosheba, the baby’s aunt and the wife of the high priest Jehoiada. Jehosheba took baby Joash and hid him and his nurse. And later Joash was taken to the temple, where he stayed in hiding for six years (2 Kings 11:1–3).

Athaliah established the worship of Baal

The record of Athaliah’s reign is brief. However, from a comparison of 2 Kings 12:5–14 with 11:18 and 2 Chron. 24:7, it is clear that during her rule, she made an effort to put an end to the worship of Jehovah and to establish the worship of Baal. God’s temple services were discontinued and the Temple itself was left unattended. The sacred vessels of the Temple that were previously used in the worship of Jehovah were given to the priests of Baal (2 Chronicles 24:7). And the queen built a Baal temple near Jerusalem.

The end of Athaliah

After six years, the high priest Jehoiada set soldiers around the temple and openly crowned the child Joash as the legal king of the land. And, the people shouted, “Long live the king!’” (2 Kings 11:12). When the queen heard the cheering, she got out of the palace screaming, “Treason! Treason!” (verse 13). Then, Jehoiada ordered his guards to kill the wicked queen (verse 16). What a sad end for the once proud daughter of Jezebel! She died as did her mother, forsaken and hated by the people.

The seven-year-old King Joash, under the guidance of the godly high priest, destroyed the temple of Baal and its images and killed the priests of Baal (2 Kings 11:18). And “all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was calm, because Athaliah had been slain” (verse 20).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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