EHOSHAPHAT, the king of Judah, was a good man and a wise king, but he made one mistake which brought great trouble upon his family and upon his land in after days. He married his son Jehoram to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and the wicked Jezebel. When Jehoshaphat died and Jehoram became king of Judah, his wife, Athaliah, led him into all the wickedness of the house of Arab. Jehoram killed all his brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat, so that no one of them might rise up against him. His queen Athaliah, set up idols all around Jerusalem and in Judah, and led the people in worshipping them.
The prophet Elijah was still living in Israel when Jehoram began to reign in Judah. He sent to King Jehoram a letter containing a message from the Lord. He wrote:
"Thus saith the Lord, the God of David, 'Because you have not walked in the ways of your father, Jehoshaphat, but have walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and have led the people of Jerusalem and of Judah to turn from the Lord to idols, and because you have slain your brothers, who were better than you, therefore the Lord will strike you and your house, and your people; and you shall have a terrible disease that none can cure."
And after this great troubles came upon Jehoram and his land. The Edomites on the south, who had been under the rule of Judah since the days of David, broke away from King Jehoram and set up a kingdom of their own. The Philistines on the west and the Arabians of the desert made war upon him. They broke into his palace, and carried away his treasures, and killed all his children except one, the youngest.
And upon Jehoram himself fell a sickness that lasted many years, and caused him great suffering. No cure could be found, and after long years of pain Jehoram died. So evil had been his reign of eight years that no one was sorry to have him die, and they would not allow his body to be buried among the kings of Judah.
After Jehoram his youngest son, Ahaziah, became king. His mother was the wicked Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel. Ahaziah reigned only one year; for while he was visiting King Jehoram of Israel, his uncle, he was slain by Jehu, as we read in Story 89; for this was the time when Jehu rose against the house of Ahab, killed Jehoram, Ahab's son, and Jezebel, Ahab's widow, and made himself king of Israel. But Jehu gave to the body of Ahaziah a king's burial, for he said, "He was the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the Lord with all his heart."
When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, heard that her son was dead, all the fierceness of her mother Jezebel arose in her. She seized the princes who belonged to the family of David and killed them, so that there was not a man of the royal line left. And she made herself queen and ruler over the land of Judah. She shut up the house of the Lord, and built a temple for Baal; and for six years led the people of Judah in all wickedness.
In the slaughter of the royal family by Athaliah one little child of Ahaziah had been saved alive. His name was Joash. He was a baby, only a year old when his grandmother, Athaliah, seized the throne, and his aunt, a sister of Ahaziah and the wife of the priest Jehoiada, hid him in the Temple of the Lord, and kept him safe from the hate of Queen Athaliah. There he stayed for six years, while Jehoiada, the priest, was preparing to make him king.
When all things were ready and little Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada, the priest, brought him out of his hiding-place, and set him before the people and the rulers in the temple, and placed the crown upon his head. Then all the people shouted, "Long live the king! Long live the king!"
The little Joash is crowned king
Queen Athaliah heard the noise of the shouting, and came out of her palace to see what had taken place. She saw the little boy-king standing by a pillar in the Temple, with the crown upon his head, and around him the soldiers and the people, crying aloud, "Long live the king!"
Athaliah was very angry as she saw all this. She called for her servants and her soldiers to break up this gathering of the people, and to take the boy-king. But no one would follow her, for they were tired of her cruel rule, and they wished to have for their king one who came from the line of David.
Jehoiada said to the soldiers, "Take this woman a prisoner, and carry her out of the Temple of the Lord. Let not her blood be spilled in the holy house."
So they seized Athaliah, and dragged her out of the Temple, and killed her. Then Jehoiada and all the people made a promise to serve the Lord only. They tore down the house of the idol Baal, and destroyed the images, and broke its altar in pieces. They made the Temple holy once more, and set the house in order, and offered the sacrifices, and held the daily worship before the altar. And all the people were glad to have a descendant of David, one of the royal line, once more on the throne of Judah.
As long as Jehoiada the good priest lived, Joash ruled well, and his people served the Lord. When King Joash grew up he wished to have the Temple of the Lord made new and beautiful; for in the years that had passed since the Temple had been built by Solomon, it had grown old, and had fallen into decay. Then, too, Queen Athaliah and the men who worshipped Baal had broken down the walls in many places, and they had carried away the gold and the silver of the temple to use in the worship of Baal.
At first King Joash told the priests and Levites, who served in the Temple, to go through the land, and ask the people for money to be spent in the fitting up of the Temple. But the priests and the Levites were slow in the work, and the king tried another plan for getting the money that was needed.
He caused a large box or chest to be made, and had it placed at the door of the Temple, so that all would see it when they went to worship the Lord. In the lid of the box was a hole through which they dropped money into the box. And the king caused word to be sent through all the land that the princes and the people should bring gifts of money, and drop it into the chest, whenever they came to the Temple.
The people were glad, and brought their gifts willingly; for they all wished to have God's house made beautiful. In a short time the box was full of gold and silver. Then the king's officers opened the box, and tied up the money in bags, and placed the bags of money in a safe place. The box was filled with gold and silver many times, until there was money in abundance to pay for all the work needed in the Temple, and for making new ornaments of gold and silver for the house.
When Jehoiada, the good priest, was very old, he died; and after his death there was no one to keep King Joash in the right way. The princes of the land loved to worship idols, and did not serve God, and they led King Joash into wicked ways after he had done so well. God was not pleased with Joash after he forsook the Lord, and God allowed the Syrians from the north to come upon the land. They robbed the cities and left Joash sick and poor. Soon after the coming of the Syrians his own servants killed him, and made Amaziah, his son, king in his place.